ANGELA, HORTICULTURE APPRENTICE
With green fingers in the family Angela was destined to a career in horticulture. And she must love plants because even on rainy days when she dons wet weather gear and heads out into the mud. She reckons you can’t beat working outside in summer though!
I started my apprenticeship in February 2008. This is my first job for a council. Before starting here, I worked in garden centres part-time while I was at school and then full time for a couple of years.
I’m serving a three-year apprenticeship with the Council’s Parks Team working towards a Level 4 Advanced Horticulture Tradesman Certificate from WINTEC.
During my apprenticeship I get to learn about all the different aspects of horticulture. We have a roster where we move around the different areas. At the moment I’m based at Pukekura Park for six months. I spend three days a week working through-out the park and the other two days in the Fernery.
I’ll then spend three months with the team that look after all the bedding plants around the district and from there I’ll move into the Customer Response Team for three months which is an admin support role. Finally, I’ll head out with the arborists for the last three months of my apprenticeship. Rotating through the different groups is a really good way of working out what parts of horticulture you enjoy because you get a taster of all of them.
I have two days of training once a month with WINTEC (which the Certificate is run through). This training is pretty much classroom-based with assignments.
We also have a ‘Plant ID’ mini-test which the Parks Team sets for us. We have to learn about five plants a week and then at the end of the month we’re tested on them.
Because I’d worked in garden centres for about seven years I thought I knew quite a lot about plants. But everyday I’m learning something new. The team is great, they’re really keen to teach me and answer all my (endless!) questions. Return to top
There’s green fingers in my family. I grew up with gardening and I always had a vege patch at home. My Nana had a greenhouse which she would grow things like parsley for the markets and help my sisters and I grow flowers to sell at the gate around Christmas. I was passionate about gardening at school and really enjoyed the hort classes. When I was 14 I went around all the garden centres looking for work and one kindly gave me a job.
I think I was destined for this kind of work!
I think you definitely need to be passionate about plants to work in this area – especially on rainy days when we don our wet weather gear and head out into the mud. You can’t beat this work in summer though, it’s great to work outside.
With this apprenticeship I’m working towards a Level 4 Advanced Horticulture Tradesman Certificate through WINTEC. It’s a three year course which is made up of credits that you grain through the monthly training sessions and assignment.
While the actual day-to-day work I do with the Parks Team doesn’t give me any credits towards my certificate, it definitely helps me with my assignments. I get to practice out in the field what we’ve learnt or what I need to find out for a project, for example.
I’m learning about and how to do all sorts of things – from transplanting plants through to plant botany (what the cells in the leaves do and what happens if they get crushed).
For one assignment we had to collect 50 different plant specimens and name the family, genus, species and cultivar, describe their horticulture use, as well as give a detailed description of the plant (shape of leaf etc).
You definitely need to love plants to do this job!
I will gain my certificate in early 2011 and from there there are lots of opportunities. One day I’d like to move up in to a management / team leader type role in a horticulture team. But you can also work overseas in some of the big gardens and parks around the world or even set up your own business in landscape design or private garden maintenance.
At the moment I really like the learning opportunities that I’m getting. It’s a great team to work in, there is lots of support and people actually want to teach me and answer all my questions!
What do you like most about working for the Council? It’s a team environment with all the different parts of the Council working together to achieve the same goals.
I like the way health and safety is a really big focus here. I don’t really notice if people are, for example, pruning a tree wrong or something, but I cringe when I see people at home doing dangerous things like using a chainsaw without any protective gear. It’s the same with spraying when you see people mixing chemicals without gloves. I worry about what they’re doing to their skin!
The Council also supplies everything you need for work - boots, safety gear, the whole uniform. Return to top
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