Darren Kerr’s Sydney-based gardening and landscape design business Appleseed Gardening is thriving – and he credits TAFE NSW for helping him grow a successful career.
Darren excelled in high school and did what many students automatically do – enrol in university. He graduated with an impressive biomedical science degree but knew the minute he received his cap and gown that he had to follow his heart and not his head.
“I just knew it wasn’t right for me and that I should have done horticulture at TAFE NSW. It’s always been a passion and I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.
Darren undertook a Certificate IV in Horticulture at TAFE NSW Ryde, which boasts a world-class horticultural college and magnificent gardens in which the students grow alongside the plants they tend.
“TAFE NSW was very hands-on and relevant. We would walk around the gardens at Ryde and learn about the plants, the construction of the gardens, how to nurture and care for them, and we would get to see and touch it all physically,” Darren said.
“The guys who work with me have said the same thing about studying landscape construction – at TAFE NSW they actually lay the bricks, they use the compactor, they roll-out the turf, they do the stonework. It’s so real, so relevant, and so valuable. They are skills you’re going to use every day.”
Darren initially worked at a garden maintenance company in Sydney’s North Shore while studying at TAFE NSW and over several years worked his way up to operations manager.
He then spent five years working in a major retail nursery and landscaping supply business before taking the plunge and starting Appleseed Gardening in 2010.
“I was a one-man band – I bought a crappy ute and started putting my business card in nurseries around Sydney with my name and TAFE NSW qualifications on it,” he laughed.
“I built it up slowly, employing a mate to be my offsider at first, and then he became full-time, and since then it has just kept growing. I now have nine employees and all of them are students or graduates of TAFE NSW.”
In June 2021, the National Skills Commission produced the latest Skills Priority List to determine future skills shortages in the Australian labour market. It predicted strong demand for landscape gardeners and the industry is set to grow annually at 2.2% over the five years through to 2023/24.
Darren is taking full advantage of that growth and has come full circle, now employing a young apprentice of his own who is studying at TAFE NSW.
He said following his passion was the one of the best decisions of his young life. As his website proudly proclaims: ‘Plants make people happy’.
“I love the creativity of what I do. I love plants – they are so fascinating and interesting and beautiful, and I get so much satisfaction from transforming people’s spaces,” he said.
“What I love the most is driving past a tree I planted and seeing it fully grown – that is something very special.”
Darren said horticulture is a great profession for anyone who loves nature and wants a fulfilling career.
“It can be physical and you have to work hard, but as you build up a business, you can earn a great income and it’s very rewarding. And you get to finish at 3.30pm!” he laughed.
Explore hundreds of courses at TAFE NSW and pursue your passion with life-changing training. For more information visit www.tafensw.edu.au or phone 131 601.
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