TAFE NSW is sowing the seeds for the future of the garden and nursery workforce, providing a pipeline of skilled workers to an industry that is forecast to grow by 6% over the next two years.
Apprentices are in high demand by gardening businesses, including Burbank House and Garden at Erina Heights, where Store Manager, Phillip Taylor, said the Central Coast business had struggled to attract new apprentices over recent years.
“We’ve advertised consistently for apprentices over the past two years. This industry isn’t for everyone, but sometimes we find candidates who are creative, passionate about plants, and focused on growing a career in nursery.
“TAFE NSW is important because it gives apprentices the opportunity to not only learn the science behind what we do, but also to spend time with other like-minded people, and share knowledge and experiences amongst other apprentices who might work in wholesale, or a different nursery environment,” Mr Taylor said.
TAFE NSW Ourimbah student, Matilda ‘Tilly’ Turner, who is studying a Certificate III in Nursery Operations and undertaking her apprenticeship at Burbank House and Garden, said TAFE NSW was helping turn her passion for plants into a dream career.
“I was working in hospitality but, as an artist, I wanted to find a career that allowed me to be creative. A friend gave me a house plant for a present and I discovered I loved plants, so I found the apprenticeship at Burbank House and Garden and started my TAFE NSW course.
“TAFE NSW gives me a further understanding of what I’m learning on the job – I learn the plant names at work, and then at TAFE I learn how to take care of them. I’m building my understanding of the intricacies of each plant species including nutrition, maintenance, and controlling pests and disease, as well as how to help customers,” Tilly said.
There has been an increase in the number of mature-aged apprentices in Australia – according to Apprenticeship Support Australia, mature-age apprentices made up 13.9% of all apprentices nationally in 2020, and by 2022, they accounted for more than a third of all apprentices.
Mr Taylor said finding a candidate like Tilly, 26, was like striking gold.
“Tilly impressed us from the start – she is bright, bubbly, and really interested in the industry. Tilly has brought with her the life experience that makes her great at what she does. She is punctual and attentive, as well as creative, and she takes her role and her TAFE NSW work very seriously,” he said.
Although considered a mature-aged apprentice, millennial Tilly is bucking a generational trend in her chosen career path. The recent 2023 Axiom Garden Survey shows that younger people are growing green thumbs early, with generations Y (millennials) and Z spending significantly more time and money on gardening. Tilly says for her it’s about career satisfaction.
“I get so much satisfaction from my work, and I’m gaining knowledge and skills from TAFE NSW that are not only helping me at work, but for my hobby. Seeing my home plants thrive gives me such a sense of accomplishment, and my goal is to have a house full of plants and eventually a side business where I propagate and sell plants,” Tilly said.
Media contact: Emily Graham, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org, 02 7921 3756.