Wiltshire College & University Centre (WCUC) are helping to support investment and education in the grounds, turf and landscaping industries with the launch of The GroundsFest Education Fund.
GroundsFest is a new exhibition promoting the groundscare community that was staged for the first time in September. The event, held at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire, proved a huge success as more than 6,500 visitors attended across the two days.
Profits generated from GroundsFest will now be invested back into the industry through The GroundsFest Education Fund, which has been designed to provide support to help students at land-based colleges overcome specific barriers to participation so they can remain in education.
The aim of the Fund is to not only support and enhance a student’s education experience but to encourage more people into the industry by making education more accessible. Students can obtain funding for items such as course literature, stationery, tools and laptops as well as accredited training courses on industry subjects.
Victoria Fiander, Assessor in Horticulture, and Bradley Tennant, Sports Turf Lecturer, at WCUC were instrumental in the development of The GroundsFest Education Fund, and the scheme will be trialled at WCUC in its first year before being rolled out nationwide.
Bradley said: “The GroundsFest Education Fund is a fantastic initiative for students to access opportunities they may otherwise not have. I would have loved to have had an opportunity like this, having personally paid for my own certificates such as spraying, tractor driving and chainsaw tickets, knowing this is a key area that holds many back from pay rises or even progression within their workplace.
“Land-based colleges are the point of entry for the vast majority of horticulture industries, from sports turf stadiums to the local garden centre. It's vital we support our colleges. There are currently only 12 land-based colleges within the UK, which is a worrying number considering you can't turn your head without seeing something that's been involved with horticulture in some form. The industry is struggling from top to bottom and education is the way forward.”
GroundsFest Event Director Christopher Bassett said: “Unfortunately, the number of young people embarking on a career in grounds management is in decline and collectively, we should be doing all we can to change this. Education is the first step into the industry but the numbers coming through and qualifying are worryingly low.
“After several conversations, we were shocked to hear that students are being forced out of education or are being prevented from entering education due to not having the money to purchase necessary items. Our aim was to always give back to the industry through the event and therefore we are extremely proud to be launching The GroundsFest Education Fund.”
Details on how to apply for funding will be released in due course.