GALLERY: Exciting day for Fenland as students learn horticulture at grass roots level

Delamore. Fenland Horticultural Academy. Official opening. Holding the ribbon is Mark Cooper Skills

Delamore. Fenland Horticultural Academy. Official opening. Holding the ribbon is Mark Cooper Skills and Growth lead, Cambridgeshire Enterprise partnership. Cllr Alan Melton. Wayne Eady Delamore managing director. - Credit: Archant

A PIONEERING £400,000 horticultural training centre has opened in the Fens.

It is based within Delamore Young Plants at Wisbech St Mary and is the result of a joint initiative with the College of West Anglia, Fenland District Council and the Cambridgeshire Enterprise Partnership.

The Fenland Horticultural Academy already has its first five students in place, apprentices who have been with Delamore for the past year.

Wayne Eady, managing director of the £7m a year turnover business, learnt his skills in the Government’s YTS scheme in the 1980s.

He said: “There is a lot to be said for young people training from grass roots level within an industry.

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“They know a business inside out and their learning is invaluable.”

The students were hailed as “pathfinders of the future” by business leaders at Friday’s official opening.

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Mark Cooper, skills and business growth lead for the enterprise partnership, said it was essential to provide young people with quality training opportunities under jointly funded apprenticeship schemes.

Council Leader Alan Melton, who performed the opening ceremony, told staff and guests: “Agriculture is the bedrock of Fenland’s economy. Unless we are prepared to put finance in to partnerships we are not going to achieve our goals of training young people for the future of the industry.

“There is a shortage of skilled people across all areas of industry and I would like to think this is the first of many such training opportunities in Fenland.”

Mr Cooper urged other companies to step forward with training and apprenticeship ideas which required funding in order to set up similar opportunities across the region.

“We are currently designing the strategies for European funding for 2104-2020,” he said. “It is essential that private/public partnerships come forward so that they are included in the strategy document for future funding.”

Delamore employs up to 100 full time workers and a further 80 seasonal staff at their Wisbech St Mary site.

APPRENTICES at the newly-launched Fenland Horticultural Academy have their sights set on successful future careers in a variety of areas within the horticultural industry thanks to their on-site training.

Ron Pears, 18, was a student in Norwich when he spotted the apprenticeship opportunity.

After successfully completing the selection process he has spent the last year learning every aspect of the horticultural industry in which he plans to base his future career.

Owen Drew, 17, and Perry Smithson, 19, both hope to go into the landscaping industry and have found the skills learnt at Delamore invaluable for their future chosen careers.

John Edwards, 21, hopes to work his way up in the industry as a grower or in a managerial position.

Helen Wright, 44, applied for the apprenticeship opportunity after being made redundant from a 27-year career in office based work.

She has concentrated her learning programme within the plant trial section of the industry at Delamore and has already travelled to Germany and Holland with plants that are planned for the 2015 season.

Shelly Goode, trainer adviser for the College of West Anglia, said: “Apprenticeships are an excellent opportunity for people of all ages to learn and earn a wage at the same time.

“There are more than 1,200 apprentices within the college,” she said.

The students are all working towards the Intermediate Level Work-Based Diploma through the College of West Anglia.

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