A survey investigating what skills the UK’s ornamental sector will need in the future is being carried out, to provide insight into potential training and resource gaps.

According to a report by Oxford Economics, commissioned by the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group, the UK ornamental industry is worth £24.2 billion and supported 568,700 jobs in 2017, amounting to 1.6 percent of total UK employment.

The survey,  is co-funded by AHDB Horticulture, Royal Horticultural Society, Arboriculture Association, British Association of Landscape Industries, Chartered institute of Horticulture and Land Based Colleges Aspiring to Excellence following a need identified by the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group.

Results from the survey will help inform a skills strategy tailored to the industry and provide data to support funding and resource decisions.With the increase in technological innovation within horticultural production, the survey will also consider the impact of automation on the skills requirements of the workforce.

Speaking at AHDB’s SmartHort conference in March this year about the future of horticultural production, Simon Pearson, director of Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology said: “We need a step change on training. We have to upskill growers and think about how they will be using technology; they’ve got to be able to understand it and fix problems with the technology themselves.”

Labour shortages are a critical issue for many horticultural producers, with the NFU stating shortfalls of up to 30 per cent in the availability of labour. The pilot seasonal agricultural worker scheme announced by the Government to allow 2,500 workers in 2019 does not apply to the ornamental sector.

Steve Reed, Production Director at Wyevale Nurseries, said: “It’s hard to find people with technical horticultural skills. Our nursery is located in an area with low unemployment and the work is seen as unskilled with no prospects, but growing plants is an incredibly satisfying and rewarding occupation.

“Leadership skills will have greater importance in the future of our workforce, to be able to lead seasonal workers and agency teams as the number of core staff reduce. Computer literacy will also only become more important.”

An online survey is also available to complete here: pyetait.com/OHRG-Skills-Survey.

If you would like further information or wish to participate in additional focus groups, please contact Michael Oberreuter on 01423 509433 or m.oberreuter@pyetait.com.

Find out more about the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group here