Tasked with taking care of the College’s extensive 42 acre site, our hard-working grounds and gardens team form a key part of the Churchill College community. The staff are out in all weathers maintaining an attractive, safe and welcoming estate for our community of students, fellows, staff, conferences and visitors alongside delivering a range of projects designed to enhance biodiversity and improve the environment across the College site.

One of the newest members of the grounds & gardens team is Apprentice Gardener Ethan, who joined Churchill six weeks ago. We met with Grounds & Gardens Team Leader Kath Banarse Davies, and Ethan, to find out more about the apprenticeship scheme and the impact it has had on those involved.

What is the aim of the apprenticeship scheme?

To teach horticultural skills in a workplace environment so the learner gains practical experience, which alongside some classroom teaching results in them passing a recognised qualification in horticulture. We hope that our apprentices will have the skills to work as gardeners in lots of different settings when they have finished their time with us.

What prompted the decision to launch the scheme?

For an educational establishment such as our College it feels right that we should have opportunities available for people to learn skills such as horticulture from the experienced individuals in our team. Coupled with classroom sessions at Kings College and some other sessions at other colleges and the University Botanic Garden, the scheme offers some special environments for learning many different horticultural skills.

How have you worked with the apprentices?

We do a lot of practical training which could include anything from driving tractors and using lots of machinery to propagation, seed sowing, planting borders, careful pruning and learning plant names. The apprentices work around the team making sure they record their training experiences which eventually form part of their final portfolio. In addition we try to talk about what we are doing and why in order to put some of our actions into context, and we try to help our apprentices stay up-to-date with their studies!

What are the scheme’s achievements thus far?

We have had two apprentices that have successfully passed on this scheme! One of whom achieved a distinction and the other achieved a special recognition award with the training providers! Both of our past apprentices are now full-time members of our team.

What would you say to someone considering an apprenticeship here in future?

I would say be prepared for lots of physical outdoor work but there is also lots of study! Hopefully it would be a very rewarding experience.

What are the future plans for the scheme?

Within our team we have just started with the first of our two new Level 2 apprentices so we hope they are successful in their studies. In a wider context we wonder if there might be opportunities for studying for a Level 3 or 5 apprenticeship within the scheme. We will have to wait and see!

Meet Ethan

Ethan has always enjoyed working outdoors and built experience working in the sector before hearing about the apprenticeship scheme at Churchill from a friend. Keen to learn more practical and theory skills after leaving college, Ethan felt the scheme would suit him well, and he decided to apply. Ethan particularly values the opportunity to gain lots of practical experience whilst also gaining a qualification.

I’m looking forward to completing my apprenticeship and progressing in the world of horticulture, maybe to do a Level 3 apprenticeship!