Trainee Case Studies

(names in the case studies have been changed and images shown are unrelated)

Derek was a man in his mid 50’s the first referral to us by Project Compass, a charity which helps ex-servicemen and women. Formerly a Private/Guardsman with the Scots Guards, he had suffered depression and alcoholism for 15 years, spending some time as a rough sleeper. There was a single, early incidence of relapse about a month into the job which caused him to go AWOL. When contacted he was honest about the relapse and we agreed to take him back, encouraging him to keep looking forward, which he did. He was settled by the time we went on a four day residential educational trip to see four world class gardens in Cornwall. He passed his Fork Lift Operator Certificate. A place became available to him in the Veterans Aid hostel where he now lives quite happily in the company of other ex-services men. He attended Capel Manor College on a Modern Apprenticeship course working towards NVQ level two in Amenity Horticulture.

James had been in Feltham Young Offenders, Brixton, Pentonville and Wandsworth prisons for different offences. He made good progress then unexpectedly went AWOL.  This resulted in a disciplinary warning when he did eventually return but a few months later he went AWOL again and we had to dismiss him. By this stage James had gained his Fork Lift Operator Certificate and the Garden Care Certificate of Competence.

Five months passed and we had a company social evening and James unexpectedly turned up. We asked him if he would like another chance and he leapt at the opportunity so we re-employed him. His attitudes and aspirations greatly improved following this second chance. He obtained his NVQ level one in Retail Operations  and City & Guilds NVQ level two in Amenity Horticulture. He had by now decided that he wanted to take up Arboriculture. We helped him to gain a bursary from the Horticultural College in Northamptonshire which paid for his board and accommodation. We applied to the Royal London Society (a charity that helps ex-offenders in the London region) who agreed to pay 80% of his tuition fees. CGC paid the remaining 20% and He started college.

James  gained the National Award in Arboriculture (a level three award), and two Operator Certificates: one for Tree Climbing and Aerial Rescue and the second for Use and Maintenance of Chainsaws. He is now working with a tree surgeon in Scotland and has settled down with a wife and baby.

Tim joined us  aged 20. He referred himself to CGC. He left school without qualifications. His parents were separated during his teens around which time he went to live with his grandparents. His achievements at CGC were Fork Lift Truck Operator Certificate; City & Guilds / NPTC Level 2 Certificate in Gardening; First Aid Appointed Person; Garden Care Certificate of Competence and NVQ Level Two Retail Skills. We  paid for driving lessons for him, as we do with all trainees after their 18th month of employment with us and he gained his full driving licence – a great skill for life.

We extended his traineeship for a further twelve months to allow him to develop his horticultural skills and he now has his own very busy successful garden maintenance business in Camden.

Jill was the first referral from the Richmond Fellowship, which is a charity supporting people with mental health issues. Well qualified with a degree in English and French, she had a job in the City with a PR company. There she suffered bullying and sexual harassment which lead to a breakdown. She became agoraphobic and had severe anxiety which lead to seven years out of work. During her recovery she developed an interest in gardening (inspired by her mother’s passion for the subject). She got an allotment. Her support worker at Richmond Fellowship discussed the possibility of a career change to horticulture and referred Jill to us..

On her very first day of working for CGC she phoned from Kings Cross station asking for directions on foot. When she arrived she was in tears and very fretful saying that she could not “do it” (cope with working). She had endured her tube journey to work in an overcrowded train. A man had groped her. When she got to Kings Cross, the station was closed and she couldn’t continue her journey by tube. There was chaos at the station and no-one to advise her about bus alternatives to get to CGC. After an hour of counselling she agreed to stay. We agreed to change her way of working and instead of travelling through rush hour morning and night one day per week she could work two half days allowing her to travel out of rush hour and to ease herself gently back into work. Her progress was excellent. She increased her hours to 3 days per week and eventually to full time. We  sponsored her on the Royal Horticultural Society’s Level Two General Examination in Horticulture course at Capel Manor, Regent’s Park. After her training period finished, Jill became a well resepcted member of our staff for nearly ten years before deciding to move to the midlands to support her aging mother and to take up horticultural work there.

Roger was one of our very first trainees in the early eighties. His aunt had set up a community garden and Roger had always shown an interest in plants as a teenager. He had life-threatening Cystic Fibrosis and was a victim of the high unemployment statistics of the early eighties for the Afro-Caribbean community in London after leaving school with few qualifications. A self confessed ‘late-starter,’ Roger drifted for a few years with little opportunities arising for work, but continued to help his aunt as a volunteer.

Roger who was referred to Camden Garden Centre, was taken on as a trainee and it was an immediate success – really finding his vocation in life despite his illness. He took his Phase One City and Guilds Horticulture on day release and was soon helping other trainees. Phase Two quickly followed; his natural talents both with plants and as a supervisor were recognized, and he was taken on as a member of staff.

A meteoric rise followed to Assistant Manager but following a forced move of the Centre’s premises and the economic recession of the early 1990’s, Roger confounded the medical professions short life expectancy diagnosis, and left the Centre to set up his own landscaping company which was a great success. He then leased a piece of land in Kentish Town and created a new Garden Centre specialising in unusual plants, ran a bookkeeping bureau and opened a shop in Notting Hill selling African artefacts. After nearly ten years Roger was made an offer he could not refuse and sold the businesses. He  gained a PhD in Taxonomy at the University of London.

Diane was a bit of a rebel at school and although she had done quite well academically she drifted in and out of jobs, leaving home at an early age. Gifted artistically, she had always enjoyed helping in her parents’ garden, and worked in a local garden centre as an assistant. Unfortunately this job didn’t last long – she needed more support than a ‘normal’ employer could give. Camden Garden Centre was the answer for Diane, and through training on and off the job, and support from management, she gained in confidence and maturity.

She completed her City and Guilds Phase One Horticulture on day release. At the same time her plant knowledge was becoming extensive, and she was taken on as a permanent member of staff. Under guidance she began to become involved in supervising trainees and took on responsibility for buying plants from nurseries. She obtained a distinction in RHS General Horticulture, gained her Forklift Drivers Certification and First Aid Certificate, and after planning the move of the centre to its new location she was promoted to Assistant Manager.

It was clear that Diane had gained immeasurably in maturity and was ready for ‘the move away from the nest’ which the garden centre had become. The qualifications which she had gained enabled her to enrol as a mature student at Kingston University on a four year BSc in Landscape Architecture. The Garden Centre paid an allowance to her to help her get by financially and buy books and equipment. During the holidays she returned to work at the garden centre.

Diane gained her degree and set up a landscaping business with another student she met at University. The business went from strength to strength and became one of the main landscaping contractors for Camden Council. Diane opened a Garden Shop in North London, and now runs her own horticulture consultancy company promoting food growing in schools and local communities and creating major installations for global corporations throughout London.

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