What is Growing Jobs about

SEEDA, the Regional Development Agency for the South East, funded Dr Alan Rae of Fletching Glasshouses to look for examples of good practice in workforce management and to develop case studies useful to different types of production horticulture.

This site makes the findings available to growers and policy makers. It contains case studies, guidelines and other outputs of the project. We identified 6 principles of good practice which you can see on the left hand side bar, and we’ve written a 24 page good practice guide which you can download via the form on the right sidebar. The full report plus cases studies and HR background is now available as a paperback.

You can find the case studies from the individual companies on their own pages, together with some video clips which allow the companies to tell their own stories for you. Finally, we’ve put together a page of useful resources and contacts.

We would still welcome additional case studies – if you think you’ve got a story that would be useful to other people, give me a ring on 0845 094 0407

Alan Rae Signature

The View from the Glasshouses

Thanks to the continuing development of social media, it’s now possible to pick up posts from other sites and republish them here making this a more powerful resource for people interested in the development of the horticultural industry.  The most recently curated articles can be found here.

New Fruit Industry Apprenticeships available – fully funded!

At last some real progress in the Apprenticeship saga. One of the big issues at present is the limited nature of funding available from central government and the very restrictive range of eligibility. Hadlow College has been trying to short circuit this for some time by seeking private sector sponsor ship so that training can be offered in a realistic way. And the great news is that they’ve got two fully funded places available for two apprentices wanting to enter the fruit farming sector.


  • The sponsorship will cover training over the three year apprenticeship period and is worth £10,000 per apprentice.
  • Because the funding has been secured from the private sector, there are no age or education barriers and application from graduates and others with higher level qualifications is especially welcome.
  • The intention of the programme is to train entrants for supervisory and middle management roles with prospects for further progress in the industry.
  • Apprentices will be indentured for a three year period during which time they will complete a nationally accredited programme including fruit production, storage, packaging, promotion, marketing and management techniques.
  • The UK fruit industry has fully recovered from the severe setbacks suffered during the eighties and nineties and the sector is witnessing substantial new and progressive investment.
  • The modern fruit industry is science, engineering and technology based.

Fruit production is one of Kent’s most important farming sectors. The county is the UK’s largest producer of top fruit.

The journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step.  So let’s hope this is the beginning of the industry reclaiming it’s destiny.

Future Leaders for Production Horticulture.

One of the things that struck me during the growing Jobs project was that the official channels of horticulture education – at least on the production side – had come to an impasse with very few horticultural graduates and M Sc s being produced  and no real vision of where to go next.

Martin Emmett, technical manager at Binsted nurseries and himself a lecturer at Kew and Reading identified a major issue for the industry which was that there was currently no mechanism for training a future generation of production horticulture leaders who were able to combine technical skills in growing and management with the marketing and people skills to steer a path in an ever consolidating market place.

However we also discovered that nature hates a vacuum and left to their own devices people tend to come up with solutions of their own.

So I thought I’d tell you about a couple of initiatives which I’ve come across at Hadlow College (near Tonbridge) recently which are pushing back at some of these issues.

As well as re-launching its own horticulture degree course which now has 20 or so students, it has pioneered a three year  apprenticeship scheme aimed at the Kent Fruit Growing industry.

Fundamentally the scheme offers placements at various fruit growers to a programme specified by the growers themselves.  The aim is to train people for supervisory and management positions in the industry.

Speaking at the launch at the Marden Fruit Show in October, Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, the college’s finance director, said: “The industry is in desperate need of highly motivated new entrants. Successful apprentices will be assured of challenging and fulfilling jobs that afford good career progression.”

The college is seeking sponsorship money from the private sector to fund apprentice training so that it can fund applicants with degrees and other higher academic qualifications as well as individuals excluded by the government’s obsession with funding under 18s to the exclusion of anyone else.

This initiative is aimed at delivering a level 3 and potentially a level 4 qualification and is aimed at breaking down the poor image that the industry has with prospective entrants in the UK. The scheme allows Hadlow to do the teaching while students obtain experience in packhouse, marketing and growing.

Another recent innovation addresses the difficulties of producing a general production horticulture course due to the extreme specialisation of production methods, particularly in protected cropping.

Hadlow have created  a general horticulture course which allows students to choose which areas they want to specialise in and to work with particular growers to provide work experience. The first fruit (as it were ) of this approach has been  the creation of a “discovery Fellowship” by Thanet Earth ( a state of the art glasshouse complex in Kent that grows Tomatoes)  to pay a second year student to spend 9 months on new product development working in a dedicated greenhouse at Hadlow equipped with a growing system equivalent to the specialist equipment used to produce Tomatoes in the main Glasshouse.

Tom Pilcher

Tom Pilcher, winner of research award

The student, Tom Pilcher,  will work both with the growers at their site in Kent, interacting with both the technical and marketing teams and will be working back at Hadlow to try and develop some new varieties.

Robert James, Technical Manager at Thanet Earth Marketing explains that “New Product Development is complicated involving record keeping, dedicated research space, and a good understanding of how a commercial green house works.  We need to go beyond the research we can do in situ to work with the college off –site. This gives us a clear opportunity to provide as student with new skills and genuine commercial experience.”

This is a real contribution to Martin Emmett’s concern about the horticultural industry providing its new generation of leaders. People who can integrate the commercial, technical and biological skills needed to provide world class produce at an affordable price.

It’s hoped that the project will yield some promising new varieties for greenhouse trials and ultimately to retail shelves.  If it’s successful this could become an annual award.


Growing Jobs videos on You-Tube

One of the great things about social media is that the tools that we have at our disposal for getting our message across get more powerful all the time.

YouTube has recently revamped their channel facilities which not only make it easier for users to find the content that’s been created but also allows us to embed complete playlists into a web page.

I’ve recently been creating a Business Basics video series which uses the findings from the additional evidence base section of the growing jobs project as the bulk of the section on Managing Teams.

I’ve taken the opportunity to create a new play list which is embedded here. It combines this 16  minute video with the 4 video clips from the project from VHB-Humber, Bardsleys, Lowater and Hillier.

I hope you find it useful

WSGA strategy report

West Sussex growers have recently released an update to their strategic plan for developing horticulture in their area. There are three key priorities that have been identified.

Strategic Priority 1

Ensure that planning and land use policies support the sector and identify suitable locations for development.

Strategic Priority 2:

Improve understanding of the sector with local communities.

Strategic Priority 3:

Improve the attractiveness of the sector to young people and potential recruits.

Priority one focuses on transport especially the A27 , energy and water conservation and looks at the need to make suitable land available outside the existing Horticultural Development Areas based on the area around Tangmere and the rump of the old land settlement association site at Runcton.

It is framed around the need to move towards all year round supply chains to meet the “needs” of the dominant retailers and raises the issues of food security and import substitution.

The third area of course falls within the remit of our Growing Jobs project so I’ve reproduced a small part of the report here.

The WSGA plans to update their recent training needs analysis of the local industry. The Association recognises that

  • The Industry is highly technical; knowledge based and requires well trained management and staff.
  • There are a wide range of specific training courses available for operational staff.
  • A new accredited course is being developed for the ornamental sector with the HTA/HDC. The course could be rolled out to other sectors after a trial. This will take over 2 years.
  • “Bank” schemes for seasonal work-loads have proved to be successful. ( see the case study on this site about Humber VHB)

Links with Education and Training Organisations

  • The provision of horticultural degree level courses at universities throughout the UK is declining; leading to a shortage of Horticultural Graduates.
  • A review of degree courses needs to be prepared from allied sectors, e.g. arable farming and vegetable production.


  • Strengthen links with local Primary & Secondary Schools.
  • Encourage individual Horticultural Businesses to form strong links with their local Schools.

Industry Specific Training

  • Growtrain provides a range of courses and has the capability to design and deliver bespoke courses.
  • The Industry needs to further communicate its requirements with local providers.
  • Develop relationships with Lantra.

Education Business  Partnership

  • Links between the successors to the Education Business Partnership and WSGA need to be strengthened.
  • Strengthen links with local Primary & Secondary Schools.
  • Apprenticeship and Work Experience schemes should be encouraged and developed.

The full report can be downloaded from the WSGA site here


New course from Concordia

New training programme for Managers

Concordia has introduced a new training programme starting in early November aimed at middle managers in the land based sector.

In conjunction with Plumpton College, Concordia is offering Management and Leadership Training (MALT) for busy managers who want the knowledge and skills for a successful career in 21st century farming.

MALT is a level 5 qualification validated by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).  Managers on the course will study Leadership, Marketing, Finance, Resource Management, Recruitment and Selection, Stakeholder Expectations and Decision Making

The course is delivered over a period of 15 months and attendance at college is divided into five separate residential blocks totalling 18 days, to minimise disruption to the working routine. Between the blocks of study, work based assignments are completed.

Concordia Chief Executive, Rob Orme, says, ‘We are aiming to a the clear need in the sector for management level training targeted fairly and squarely at the land based sector. Our new course is for people already in middle management positions who want to further develop their skills. The assignments are focussed on the individual student’s workplace enhancing the relevance for employers.’

Concordia is expecting interest from managers who are established in their role but may not have undertaken formal training for some time as well as people who have completed Concordia’s other management courses.

Concordia already offers its Management and Supervisory Training Programme (MAST). This is a Level 3 course aimed at supervisors and team leaders in their first management or supervisory positions.

Applicants or employers should telephone or e-mail Amy Wood, Concordia Education and Training Manager on 07808 888525 or amy.wood@concordia.org.uk for more information about the MALT programme. Information is also available at www.concordia.org.uk

Building a World Class Workforce

This book came from a project carried out for SEEDA to develop some general principles about how to build a world class workforce for the horticultural industry. I talked to about 30 growers and unearthed some interesting case studies about innovative ways that real companies had used to develop their workforces.

Horticulture is a highly technical industry but is seen as a Cinderella by policy makers and educators as it doesn’t fit the usual pattern where qualifications map easily to expertise.

This is of course normal amongst SMEs who continue to baffle the good and the great. The book’s influenced strongly by my own experiences of running businesses in IT and horticulture as an organic grower and I have tried to develop insights that are useful to anyone running a small business.

The second half of the book provides an evidence base and embeds the findings of the research into current management thinking about high performance work practices and current approaches like Lean and Smart Working.

You can sample the book here

You can buy it via the www.Completelynovel.com site or you can buy it directly from the Author here for £11.99 inc post and packing.

Sustainability and Water

Last week I was giving a talk on the Growing Jobs Project to the British Independent Fruitgrowers association’s Technical Day

What was particularly interesting was that all of the talks had working sustainably at the core of  what the speaker had to say.

The science was all about managing pest control to minimize or eliminate pesticide residues with a lot of work being done at East Malling on that subject.  We had a presentation on Garlic as a tree wash and natural insect repellent and two talks about managing labour in a way that increases how long it lasts.

The speaker from Waitrose was also explaining how they were building more longer lasting relationships with their growers while a very interesting talk was given by Emily Durrant who has worked with organisations such as Heineken and Bulmers and has done some work developing a sustainability index for fruit growers.

The index covered these dimensions

  1. Farmer and Local Community
  2. Social and Cultural Wellbeing
  3. Environmental Pollution
  4. Natural Resource Use
  5. Biological Resources

Emily said that this sounds quite complicated but that it really boiled down to

Growing lots of quality apples at a fair price  for a long time. That seems fair enough

The most serious thing that I took away was that  the one thing that all the speakers referred to was the need to use water more effectively.  There is certainly going to be  increasing competition for water in  the supply chain for fresh produce over the coming decades and all growers should have a strategy for dealing with this emerging issue.

I felt glad that we were following Lowaters in installing a rainwater harvesting system in our own nursery.

Paperback version of Growing Jobs Report

Thanks to the wonders of social media marketing and a  great new site called Completely Novel you can now buy the Growing Jobs  report and the case studies as a paperback – 57 pages for £5.99

You can use this link to buy it.

The completely novel site also allows you to read it online before you buy it.

If you do got this route, please let me know how you get on


School of Fruit Growing

One of the themes that came out of the original study was that we need to take control of our own education and training. Since this site was set up as a means for the industry to talk to itself I’m quite happy to describe new initiatives here – Public or Private – as long as they’re relevant.

When talking about the project at the National Fruit Show last week, I found out about a new 4 module on Fruit growing from FAST. This 4 day course runs one day a month from December to March and covers

  1. Soil management – types, structure and nutrition
  2. Tree Physiology and Management
  3. Harvesting and Storage
  4. Pest and Disease control.

As demand for UK fruit increases the need to supply fruit over a longer season requires a good understanding of the influence of the picking date and storage conditions on fruit quality.

It costs £350 + VAT per day. If you are south east based you may qualify for some grant funding. More details from Sheenagh Levett on 07950 775161 or via the web site

The course focuses on top and stone fruit, but similar courses aimed at soft fruit are also available.