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For­mer hor­ti­cul­ture appren­tice wins top indus­try award


An apprenticeship student turned staff member at Wiltshire College & University Centre has picked up a prize at the National Landscape Awards.

A former Wiltshire College & University Centre horticulture apprentice has been recognised for his efforts with a top industry award.

Russ Fletcher was named British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) Chalk Fund Landscape Student of the Year at the National Landscape Awards.

Russ completed a Level 3 Horticulture and Landscape Supervisor apprenticeship training programme earlier this year and now works full-time at WCUC as part of the Gardens Team based at the Lackham campus.

The National Landscape Awards are the largest awards within the sector in Europe and provides the industry with a platform in which to showcase and improve their business and celebrate their achievements. This year’s ceremony took place at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House in London, with Russ amongst those to be honoured with an award.

“I’m really pleased. You don’t expect to win awards,” said Russ. “When we came across the awards and the entry criteria, we thought we’d give it a go and put me forward. When I got told I’d made the final shortlist of seven, I thought that was good enough. Then to get the call to find out I had won was a real shock.”

Russ began his career working in the construction industry but, eager to strike a better work/life balance and spend more time with his family, he changed tack to pursue a role in horticulture after spotting an apprenticeship opportunity at WCUC.

He explained: “My background was in the building trade. I did that for 16 years, working with my dad in our own company. We’d do all different things, like bricklaying and groundworks, and some of the jobs were landscaping work in the gardens of people’s homes. Those were jobs that I really enjoyed so it was something I thought about focusing on more.

“The building trade is a tough job, and it doesn’t go that well with having a family life. I wanted to try to find that better balance. I’d be out all day then would come home and end up working on invoices for customers until 11pm at night and not seeing my children.

“When I saw the horticulture apprenticeship come up at Lackham, I just thought ‘why not go for it’.”

Russ credits the learning environment and supportive tutors and colleagues for the ease at which he has flourish in the horticulture sector. He is now eager to pass on his own skills and knowledge as best he can in order to preserve the future of the industry.

Russ said: “The support here has been amazing and I now get to work alongside the current apprentices and help them progress. That’s a huge part of what I enjoy about the job. I am passionate about passing on that knowledge and helping others, and when I spoke to the people at BALI, they said that is what stood out about my entry.

“Getting more women and people from different backgrounds into horticulture is also important and it’s great that we have a female apprentice on our team at the moment.

“People look at this industry in a stereotypical way, they think you need to be a burly man. But if we just rely on that, the industry will be in trouble. We need lots of different people with different ideas coming into it.”

Find out more about our courses in horticulture and landscaping, including apprenticeships, click here.

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