Organisers of GroundsFest have announced that event profits are being reinvested back into the industry to form The GroundsFest Education Fund.
They say the Fund has been designed to provide support to help students at land-based colleges overcome specific barriers to participation so they can remain in education. The aim, they say, is to not only support and enhance a student’s education experience but to encourage more people into the industry by making education more accessible.
Through profits generated from GroundsFest, organisers say that students will be able to obtain funding for a wide range of items such as course literature, stationary, tools, laptops, computers and other electrical goods, driving lessons, and accredited training courses on subjects including machinery, weed management, sports turf maintenance, lawn care and arboriculture.
Event director Christopher Bassett said, “Unfortunately, the number of young people embarking on a career in grounds management is in decline and collectively, we should be doing all we can to change this. Education is the first step into the industry but the numbers coming through and qualifying are worryingly low.
"After several conversations, we were shocked to hear that students are being forced out of education or are being prevented from entering education due to not having the money to purchase necessary items. Our aim was to always give back to the industry through the event and therefore we are extremely proud to be launching The GroundsFest Education Fund.”
The scheme will be trialled for the first year at Wiltshire College & University Centre before being rolled out nationwide. Victoria Fiander, assessor in horticulture, and Bradley Tennant, sports turf lecturer, both from Wiltshire College, were instrumental in the development of the Fund.
Commenting on the new scheme, Bradley said, “Working with students, I know they often can't find work due to travel arrangements. We are located in a very rural area, and having access to The GroundsFest Education Fund has the potential to bring more young people into our industry. Something as simple as driving lessons could pave the way for their future to become an industry leader.
“Land-based colleges are the point of entry for the vast majority of horticulture, from sports turf stadiums to the local garden centre. It's vital we support our colleges. There are currently only 12 land-based colleges within the UK, which is a worrying number considering you can't turn your head without seeing something that's been involved with horticulture in some form.
"The industry is struggling from top to bottom and education is the way forward.”