Ornamental horticulture skills survey

Analysis of over 1,100 ornamental horticulture businesses provides insight into the specific skills and labour challenges affecting the sector.

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Labour in ornamental horticulture

The ornamental horticulture sector has a key role in the UK’s economy, contributing more than £24 billion and supporting over 560,000 jobs (as reported by Oxford Economics data from 2017. However, with labour shortages remaining a critical issue for many horticultural producers, work needs to be done to reveal and fill training and resource gaps in the sector to ensure its future.

The skills survey

In recognition of this need, AHDB Horticulture, Royal Horticultural Society, Arboriculture Association, British Association of Landscape Industries, Chartered institute of Horticulture and Land Based Colleges Aspiring to Excellence co-funded this survey on behalf of the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group. This survey accounts for production horticulture, arboriculture, landscaping, garden retail and public gardens.

Carrying out this survey and characterising the skills needs of the industry are key steps to ensure this industry continues to thrive, with the outcome having the potential to shape future policy, focus skills funding and improve training provision.

What are the take-home messages from the survey?

The survey provides detailed insight into the current characteristics of the labour force in the ornamentals industry and has highlighted gaps where there are opportunities for positive changes to be made:

  • Key concerns and drivers for change include environmental issues, shortage of appropriate skills in the workforce, access to labour, Brexit and public opinion, and understanding of the sector
  • Skills shortages and gaps are characterised by:
    • Difficulty recruiting people with the right skills or attitudes
    • Relatively high vacancies in skilled trades, professional and technical occupations
    • Expectation that the number of required skilled roles will increase, which could lead to further shortages
  • Despite an ongoing focus on automation, robotics and technology, answers showed businesses expect this to have limited impact on workforce pressures in the near future, thus concerns over labour and skills availability remain high
  • Insufficient skilled pathway into the sector:
    • Lack of awareness/understanding of sector’s apprenticeship model, including trailblazer apprenticeships
    • Lack of awareness of incoming T levels as a potential opportunity to help in guiding more young people into the sector

For all the details, read the full reports below:

Ornamental horticulture sector skills survey – all sectors: full report

Ornamental horticulture sector skills survey – subsector report: ornamental plant production

Ornamental horticulture sector skills survey – subsector report: public gardens

Ornamental horticulture sector skills survey – subsector report: landscaping

Ornamental horticulture sector skills survey – subsector report: arboriculture

Ornamental horticulture sector skills survey – subsector report: garden retail

Useful links

AHDB resources

Edible horticulture skills survey

Visit our SmartHort pages for more information on emerging technologies and labour management practices for horticulture

Check out AHDB’s skills pages for resources to help you develop an effective workforce

T levels

Find out what T levels are

How can you, as a business, get involved with T levels?