Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

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2019 Horticulture Sector Skills Survey Results Published

Author:  Arboricultural Association
Last Updated:  20/11/2019

2019 Horticulture Sector Skills Survey

Arboriculture and Horticulture Results Published

2019 Horticulture Sector Skills Survey - Arboriculture and Horticulture Results Published

The results of the Arboriculture sector skills survey carried out in Spring 2019 have now been published. The new report provides evidence of many long-term issues facing the sector.

The survey found that most Arboricultural businesses expect environmental opportunities and Health & Safety to be the main driver of change within the industry, as well as shortages of skills, particularly at technical and supervisor level, and access to labour which many within the sector are already experiencing.

Arboriculture Sector Report

Horticulture Sector Report

The key results include:

  • Arboriculture is facing a skills shortage. Primarily in skilled professional and technical occupations and supervisory positions. Recruits to the sector often lack basic skills.
  • Growth is being restrained by the availability of skilled staff
  • There is low take up of apprenticeship schemes by the industry
  • Most Arboricultural businesses, being micro or small sized, do not understand apprenticeship offerings nor the available apprenticeship funding.
  • Environmental Awareness and Soft Skills are cl early identified as key training areas going forward.
  • There is a lack of appropriate training provision and a lack of signposting to existing training provision.

How will the results be used?

The results of the arboriculture and horticulture skills surveys will be presented to government in the new year.

This data will help shape the development of careers in the sectors and address skills shortages in the horticulture industries.

It is also a good indicator of the future training requirements of the arboriculture industry, as well as potential shortages we may face in the future.

Skills and Labour Issues Highlighted

Skills and labour issues are of key concern for the entire sector in the near to medium term. There are significant skills issues (skills gaps and shortages) which were highlighted by the sector through the survey and workshops and which need to be addressed for both the sector as a whole and for specific sub-sectors. These skills challenges are indicated by:

  • Difficulties recruiting people with the right skills and/or attitudes (accounting for 24% of all skills gaps – the highest share);
  • A relatively high proportion of vacancies in skilled trades, professional and technical occupations and supervisory positions remaining open after three years (combined 35%) (see Table 6)
  • This is compounded by the fact that the number of jobs in skilled trades is expected to increase by 7.4% (see Figure 7) in the next two years
  • Similarly, supervisory staff is predicted to rise by 8.5% over the same time period
  • An ageing full-time, part-time and trainee workforce
  • A low average number of apprentices per business (1.4)

The following examples highlight the perceptions of the respondents.

Arboriculture-skills shortages

There is an overall shortage of apprentices in the industry. Recruiting apprentices is relatively easy, their retention proves more difficult. This may be related to little awareness of the true nature of the profession and its physical demands. Aspiring candidates seem to be aware of exciting Arb features like climbing, but underestimate the physical demands and menial tasks involved. Work ethics and behaviours are also issues.

Knowledge of the sector and the knowledge of trees should be promoted in schools and teachers should be engaged as well. Horticulture skills should be included in career days. The pathways and career progression routes and a pride in the profession also should be promoted.

“Speaking specifically with regards to arboriculture, the lack of suitably qualified staff is directly linked to the increased numbers of small companies being created each year. Whilst this is not a bad thing for the local economy, it does put a huge strain on staff retention and has created a situation whereby skilled staff are now working for companies who display a less than acceptable level of health a safety compliance. A government endorsed scheme specific to arboriculture, highlighting the need to use skilled, qualified and insured professionals who consider their whole supply chain, is the only way that I can see the public perception of the industry changing.”

Further evidence which might add to the impression of an ageing workforce is the low proportion of apprentices and the difficulty employers say they are facing in recruiting and retaining them (see later sections of the horticulture report).

Arboriculture Sector Report

Horticulture Sector Report

Garden Retail Sector Report

Landscaping Sector Report

Ornamental Plant Production Sector Report

Public Gardens Sector Report

Ornamentals Skills Survey Members

More information

The ornamental horticulture sector contributes more than £24 billion to the country’s economy.

More than 1,100 ornamental horticulture businesses responded to the survey.

Other organisations that sit alongside the Arboricultural Association in the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group include: