Zach Wright and David Garman are the latest trainees to arrive at Trinity under the Work and Retrain as a Gardener Scheme (WRAG). As they arrive, the 1000th WRAG trainee, Annabel Rudd, leaves, after successfully completing her year’s training at the College.
As if one milestone wasn’t enough, 2018 will be the 25th anniversary of the WRAG Scheme, which was set up by the Women’s Farm and Garden Association (WFGA). The WFGA, founded in 1899, played a role in the creation of the Land Army during the First World War.
Today’s WRAGs trainees work 12-15 hours per week in carefully selected gardens in return for the national living wage, holiday pay – and the wealth of knowledge and experience shared by the host gardeners.
Zach is a history graduate, from Alabama, and David, with a degree in horticulture, is returning to work after full-time parenting. Both are enthusiastic about the opportunity offered by the WRAG Scheme and the placement at Trinity. David said:
I’ve always been interested in gardening and after eight years full-time parenting I knew I didn’t want to return to my old job and was determined to change to a new career that I would really enjoy. Training two days a week at Trinity is ideal to gain more practical gardening knowledge and skill – and what a fantastic and beautiful place to do it!
Annabel, who completed her training under Trinity’s Head Gardener, Tom Hooijenga, said the WRAG scheme was ‘brilliant’.
‘I would really recommend the WRAG Scheme. It opens doors for people who want to get back into work or change their careers. It’s given me the confidence and the skills to start my own business,’ she said.
Annabel now combines working as a gardener part time and studying at the next level, on a Royal Horticultural Society course, at King’s College. She hasn’t looked back after leaving a career in PR.
I arrive at the school gates to pick up my children in muddy clothes and boots, with rosy cheeks – the other mums are in suits and heels and complain of the cold. I don’t miss my old job at all. I love being outside and have learnt by actually doing – the best way – and doing something I am very passionate about.
Tom agrees that hands-on training is vital. ‘There is an acute shortage of professional staff in horticulture. It’s hard to find people with both experience and knowledge. Some may have a degree in horticulture but they don’t know how to hold a spade,’ he said.
‘The WRAG Scheme certainly helps combat this. It’s a chance for trainees to be hands on and for us to show them what we do. They learn from us and that helps their future careers.’
As Head Gardener at Trinity, in charge of 36 acres and 12 gardeners, Tom said the scheme provided an ideal way for Trinity to help people develop their careers in gardening. ‘It’s about giving something back. I have had lots of chances in the past, which really helped me. I’d like others committed to gardening to have similar opportunities,’ he said.
The last word from Annabel, the 1000th WRAGs trainee. ‘It’s admirable that Trinity College is investing time and resources in schemes like WRAG as it shows a real commitment to all aspects of learning.’