Thursday, 14 February 2013

Horticultural Careers - Why Not?

There has been a lot in the gardening press recently about the lack of new blood coming into the horticulture field looking for a career. It's all seen as desperately uncool, and being a gardener has been likened by our glorious and esteemed prime minister as being on a similar level to litter picking.

Having said all of that, I suspect from some reading around that I've done over the last few days that the real answer is actually rather simple. Money. Simple as. If people are going to spend time, effort, and hard earned cash on getting themselves a horticultural qualification, put more time and effort into developing their skills, and then go out and put those skills to use making other people's property look nice, they are going to want the effort to be worth it.

After a brief perusal of the Horticulture Week jobs page, I've reached the conclusion that this just isn't the case. The wages being offered are absolutely PATHETIC! £7.50-£10 an hour for an experienced seasonal gardener - You can earn that working in a restaurant. Very un-tempting. £15k PA for an experienced vegetable gardener. £15k-£17.5k for a gardening position at Windsor Castle - Seriously!? That's all the royal family can pay their garden staff!?

Now, can anyone really be surprised when your young school leaver (who has none of the experience required for the above mentioned dream positions) looks at these prospects and thinks, "you know what, I think I'll just go and work in a call centre. At least it'll be warm, and I'll get paid more for my efforts".

Sure, working in horticulture has all manner of other benefits - you're outside, working with nature. You keep fit from the physical aspect of it all. Your mental health is great because of your extended contact with the natural world. The only problem is that you're skint. Really skint. All of the time. Especially in winter. The only exceptions to this seem to be those lucky charismatic few that manage to score that book deal, or are selected to dispense advice to the masses through the medium of television or magazine. Everyone else should probably get used to the slightly equine flavouring of those smart price sausages.

I'd love to change my career direction and start doing something I love, but I just can't afford it. Those entry level wages are just too shockingly crap. Life is too expensive and I want my family to be able to enjoy a few of the niceties. So, for now, I guess I'll just have to keep looking out of the office window and dreaming, and waiting for the day that the OH is a highly paid, highly powered member of the NHS ruling elite and can keep us all in the manner to which we'd like to become accustomed, while I go outside and play.