Roll your sleeves up and dig down deep | A career in landscaping and horticulture
Speaking at a recent careers event at Kirklees College, Justin Paxman talked about the positives of a choosing a career in landscaping and horticulture. Justin spoke of his own experiences, starting as an apprentice, becoming his own boss and now running one of the most successful and fastest-growing landscape businesses in the North of England, Paxman Landscapes.
We’ll let Justin tell you more…
At Paxman Landscapes we provide commercial and domestic landscape construction and grounds maintenance services. This includes full landscape services from design, construction, consultancy and project management across the North and nationwide and I am backed and supported by a skilled 15-strong operative team, based in Kirkburton. We also supply and install a unique artificial turf range, Grass Greener.
Making things right
But my landscaping business developed from more humble beginnings. I started my landscaping journey at Kirklees Council as a Horticultural Apprentice at the age of 17. I embarked upon a 3 year apprenticeship as part of the then Youth Training Scheme (YTS) and attended the course at the Taylor Hill campus at Kirklees College. Under the instruction of Graham Porter who ran the course and who is still actively involved in landscaping in West Yorkshire, I shared a love of the outdoors and a keenness to follow projects through from rough sketch to planted canvas. Ok, so this wasn’t my original plan as I wanted to study Sports at Loughborough University, but what I wanted most to do was to work outdoors, get creative and manage projects from start to finish – and beyond.” I was, and still am, a big fan of “making things right” – so landscaping and grounds maintenance were a perfect fit.
From the ground up
As a horticultural apprentice learning about Amenity Horticulture, my on-the-job training took in grounds maintenance across the town’s parks and gardens. I also worked alongside the development teams who managed playgrounds, fencing and hard landscaping projects across the region – even working a little at Bradley Park Golf Club on course maintenance and greenkeeping. Add in a few months I spent learning the ropes in the Maintenance Department, I could not only plant, build and maintain grounds, but I could mend mowers, fix tools and provide technical and agricultural support to the maintenance teams, too.
By this point, I was ready to start seizing my own opportunities to manage my own landscaping projects so I started domestic landscaping for my own customers from 1994. I looked after private gardens, garage forecourts and local businesses and had soon built up enough of a client base to go it alone from 1999. And with a couple of labouring contacts, a Bedford Rascal van and some elbow grease, Paxman Landscapes was born.
So what could you become?
Well, if like me, you take pride in seeing a project through from start to finish, landscaping is perfect. And a landscaper’s lot is multi-disciplined and varied, it’s not just driveways and fences. There are many paths to choose:
- Hard landscaping: brickwork, paving, fencing, construction, lighting, street furniture, water features
- Soft landscaping: ornamental planting, turfing, mowing, plant care, weeding, tree planting, bedding and soil preparation
- Grower, Nurseryman or Supplier: all elements of horticulture, growing, propagation, pest and disease management, plant care and growing media.
- Agriculture: Land management, crop cultivation, machinery maintenance
- Arboriculture or Forestry: Tree surgery, tree care, tree officer
- Plant Science: Research, horticultural development, new product development
Not only is the marketplace varied and diverse with opportunities across these and many more disciplines, but the industry is crying out for New Blood. Long have the horticultural and landscaping fraternities been struggling to encourage young people to get involved – in fact, over the last 20 years, estimates show a massive skill shortage of over 50,000 people. It is incredibly difficult to recruit landscape and horticultural specialists to keep this industry alive and this means that we’re struggling for young managers, too. So many opportunities to be able to build a career path and progress through the ranks to management with relative ease.
Roll your sleeves up and dig down deep
We’re under no illusions – you don’t embark on a career in landscaping and horticulture for the easy life. Not only is it hard physical work, but you have the added challenges of ground conditions and weather elements to battle on a daily basis. But the rewards are immense – and the opportunities are plentiful.
Roll your sleeves up, dig down deep and rise to the landscaping challenge today. We’re on the hunt for landscape apprentices right now – fancy the challenge? Find out more.