STAFF at one of Britain’s most beautiful gardens are celebrating gaining qualifications which will help them perform their jobs better.
The Cholmondeley Castle estate has formed a partnership with Reaseheath College to encourage gardeners to increase their knowledge without leaving their workplace.
By taking advantage of the Train to Gain service, eligible employees have had free on-site training and have successfully gained their NVQ Level 2 Amenity Horticulture (Nursery).
Assessor Tony Handley, from the specialist college in Nantwich, has visited the site weekly to observe, check underpinning knowledge and help staff fill in a portfolio.
Achieving a nationally recognised standard in just six months has boosted staff confidence as well as filling in useful skills gaps.
Bill Brayford, head gardener of the 10-strong team which looks after 40 acres of award-winning grounds, feels that the qualification recognises the years of practical experience and knowledge accrued by his staff.
He said: “Gaining a national benchmark proves that you can do the job properly and boosts confidence. Using the Train to Gain programme doesn’t disrupt your business as the assessor comes in to the workplace. This has been very important to us as we attract 20,000 visitors annually, particularly in this, the Cheshire Year of Gardens.”
Keith Crump, who raises fruit and vegetables for the castle kitchens and cut flowers for the house, has found that achieving the qualification has given him more confidence to answer visitors’ questions.
He said: “Filling in background knowledge has helped me with my job because I now understand why I do things in a certain way. It’s made me realise how much I do know and it’s has given me a greater sense of responsibility.
“This is the first formal studying I’ve done since leaving school in the ’70s and I found it very interesting and enjoyable.”
Alison Dimelow, who has worked at Cholmondeley Castle’s garden and plant sales centre for 11 years and specialises in propagating new stock, found completing her portfolio was both interesting and enjoyable.
She said: “I really felt that I’d learnt something worthwhile.”
The Train to Gain initiative matches training needs with training providers at little or no cost where employees meet criteria. Reaseheath College offers a wide range of training opportunities to businesses including horticulture, food manufacturing, customer service, business administration, team leading, management and information technology.
Contact Janet Beardmore on 01270 613189 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Cholmondeley Castle Gardens will be open on Sunday, October 26, from 11am–5pm, for Autumn Tints.