University of Worcester – Horticulture

Name: Steve Gardner
Employer: University of Worcester
Type of apprenticeship: Horticulture

This case study is the employer’s perspective to apprenticeships in the Grounds Maintenance Team at the University of Worcester.  This can be read in conjunction with another case study about Apprentice, Grace McNiff, who is an Apprentice Grounds Assistant at the University.

The University of Worcester has a long history of having an active apprenticeships programme and the grounds maintenance team is no exception.  The team current comprises a total of 6 members of staff, 2 of whom are currently apprentices studying Level 2 and 3 Horticulture at Pershore College.  Another 2 of the team have worked their way through the apprenticeship scheme and both been retained within the Grounds Maintenance Team.

Steve Gardener (isn’t that a perfect surname for a horticulturalist?!), Senior Groundsman of the Grounds Maintenance team, is a firm supporter of the apprenticeships programme within this department.  which covers all 4 of the Worcester university campuses.  Steve puts great importance on the knowledge that the apprentices gain during their horticultural studies at Pershore College.  “As well as the horticultural knowledge, the apprentices learn about the essentials about Health and Safety.  This includes all the issues that they need to consider and measures they need to take in their day to day job when dealing with machinery, chemicals, fumes, manual handling, ergonomics and signage to not only ensure their own safety, but also that of their colleagues and the general public.”

The University strives to continually improve their sustainable policies which from the Grounds Maintenance point of view particularly includes environmentally sensitive practices. In addition to the practical skills of plant knowledge including propagation and pruning, the department also benefits from what the apprentices learn about the modern ways to manage pests and diseases.  For instance, they learn about using ground cover to reduce weeds rather than using chemical weed killers and the variety of biological controls to control pests instead of insecticides.  The theory that the apprentices learn at college they can immediately put into practice.  This means that they themselves can suggest practical and sustainable solutions to problems that they identify in the course of their work.

The University of Worcester has a fundamental learning culture, not only for their students, but their staff too.  This extends to all levels within the organisation from Level 2 through to Level 8 in various departments including facilities, estates and IT departments as well as the teaching staff in the various faculties.

Steve concluded, “The apprenticeship programme within the Grounds Maintenance team is the foundation to the department.  It is so satisfying to see the apprentices grow and develop in their knowledge and confidence.  The knowledge they gain helps the apprentices take on more responsibility and problem solve in the day to day jobs which in turn maintains the efficiency of the department.”

If you would like to know more about apprenticeships, please contact Worcestershire Apprenticeships by email at

Hashtags:   @PershoreColWCG ‏ @worcester_uni