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Category: Parks and Green Spaces

Apprenticeship Levy Are we ready?

There has been lots written in the press about the new apprenticeship levy, that is being introduced in April 2017. I believe it will change how we view and run apprenticeships beyond recognition. There will certainly be an increase of cash in the system. In the Horticultural Industry our new trailblazer standard has been approved and is now ready to be used as the framework for training operatives and supervisors. The whole principle of the trailblazers are to have good quality apprenticeship programmes that are employer led. If the reforms work as expected the whole process should be very straightforward from start to finish and this should have an impact on the skills gap.

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Visit to House of Commons

As part of National Apprentice week I was delighted to attend the ‘Made by Apprentices’ event held at the House of Commons today (10/3/2015), I was joined by Jack Peters one of our Horticultural Apprentices. The event was for SME’s to showcase what apprentices can achieve and how they can help businesses flourish. Both Andrew Jones MP & Apprenticeship Ambassador in Parliament and Skills Minster Nick Boles both took time to speak to Jack and learn more about his story with John O’Conner Grounds Maintenance. During the afternoon event both myself and Jack were able to speak to business yet to get on board with apprenticeships and hopefully we have convinced them of the many benefits;

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BALI Spreads the Word

Recently in my role as director for BALI I was asked to give a presentation at the grounds maintenance conference hosted by The Northern Housing Consortium. The conference was aimed at anyone in the housing sector who procures delivers grounds maintenance or GM services. The main purpose of the day was to consider how will the industry continue to deliver a quality service to customers under a back drop of the need to make efficiency savings. A question that does not have an easy answer.

BALI had been specifically requested to comment on the current trends, pressures and opportunities.

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National Apprenticeship Week 3-7th March 2014

We have been busy throughout the business this week engaging with National Apprenticeship Week organised by the National apprenticeship Service (NAS). This year the week has three main objectives

Increase awareness, understanding and demand for Apprenticeships Celebrate Apprenticeship talent, skills, achievements and successes Promote all Apprenticeship levels and progression routes, including Traineeships

And the one overarching theme is “Great Apprenticeships”

highlighting to employers that “Great Businesses” are made by apprentices highlighting to consumers (primarily young people and their parents) that Apprenticeships lead to “Great Prospects.”

As a company we have seen the success that comes with having a good quality apprenticeship programme and last year being highly commended in the regional awards was a real highlight.

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A new role to help nurture and grow apprenticeships in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire

I’m really pleased to announce that I have agreed to become an Apprenticeship Ambassador for the Hertfordshire and South Cambridgeshire Ambassador Network.

This network has recently been set up to help spread the word about the value that apprentices can bring to organisations.

There’s a lot of research to suggest that one of the best ways to get new employers involved with apprenticeship schemes is for peer groups to spread the word. The avowed aims of the network are to:

Champion apprenticeships to employers of all sizes, with the aim of increasing the number of apprenticeship opportunities offered across Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire,

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Why protecting our parks also means protecting the health of our nation

I have quite a bit of sympathy with well-known gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh, who recently said it was ‘a sin’ that our beautiful public amenities are suffering from lack of funding.

Looking at things from the government’s perspective, I can understand why there is a perceived need for local government expenditure to be rationalised and looked at closely. We’ve been through difficult times and we need prudence where public expenditure is concerned.

No organisation or body wants its funding cut, and it can seem that any protests are just a manifestation of the old ‘not in my backyard’ syndrome.

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Training our trainers

Training has always been a big big part of improving quality and productivity at John O’Conner. I see the evidence of this investment every day in the excellence of the work all around our contracts. I also believe that when operatives are trained by their own colleagues, it becomes even more effective, which is why I was so pleased to see the continuation of our programme of ‘train the trainer’ courses this week.

We chose 5 experienced operators of groundscare machinery to attend the current course. These people, who have all shown an impressive desire to develop and pass on their knowledge,

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A new ‘parks alliance’ to help our industry speak with one voice

A couple of weeks ago, I got together with 40 other key UK executives from our industry, to discuss building a cross-sector group or ‘Parks Alliance’.

This was hosted by ‘Horticulture Week’ and it was the second round-table discussion prompted by their ‘Make Parks a Priority’ campaign. The main focus of all of this is to raise our industry profile and provide a united voice amid cuts to park budgets.

In light of the new public health role of local authorities, it was generally felt that our timing was good. Maybe now, things could move full circle – after all,

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The void left by Greenspace must be filled

I’m really sorry to see that Greenspace has ceased trading and has now gone into administration.

This organisation added so much value to so many areas of our industry and its loss has left a void which must now be filled. We all need to make sure that the good work and research that Greenspace has carried out in the past is passed on to a new home.

 I was very pleased to read that the government has been lobbied by The Federation of Parks and Recreation (IFPRA) to try and see if they can assist in this matter.

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Speaking with a shared voice

There’s a real buzz about the horticultural industry at the moment, with so many different organisations coming together to speak with a shared voice – all of which means we stand a much better chance of being heard.

Horticulture Week’s vigorous ‘Make Parks a Priority’ campaign is doing a really good job of highlighting the disproportionate cuts to parks maintenance budgets. The aim is to try and get as many MPs as possible to sign Early Day Motion 219 regarding funding for urban parks and ultimately Make Parks a Priority.

Also, The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces supported by GreenLINK is in the process of setting up a petition to call for protection and improvement of the UK’s parks and green spaces.

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