Joe Swift revisits apprentices 10 years on

A distinguished green-fingered guest recently took a trip down memory lane to Oldham Council’s Alexandra Park – 10 years after he first came to town.

Joe Swift, a presenter on the BBC’s Gardeners World, visited the park in August 2006 to meet four young Oldham Council apprentices as part of a country-wide tour.

A decade on he returned to meet up with the apprentices and find out what they are up to in their horticultural careers.

During his original visit, Joe had interviewed Chris Woods, Andy Marsland, Michael Shaw and Paul Byrne on camera.

Paul had come through the council’s apprentice scheme and had been appointed Deputy Head Gardener of the now Grade II* listed park.

Since then he has gained a management role as a Greenspace Officer. This is a role which includes supervising the team at Alexandra Park and the award-winning Bloom and Grow team.

Paul said: “I started my career at Oldham Council as an apprentice in 2001 and in 2005 I was awarded the title of APSE Young Horticulturalist of the Year.

“Since then I have progressed in my role to officer level. This is testament to the management and excellent training provided by Oldham Council.

“When I first met Joe 10 years ago, he showed how we could make a career out of horticulture and I haven’t looked back since.”

Andy, Michael and Chris, are also now in elevated positions to pass on their skills and are helping to train the next generation of apprentices.

Councillor Barbara Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Co-operatives, said: “Joe has had a long working relationship with Oldham Council and it’s good he has come back to visit the four apprentices he first met 10 years ago.

“Over the years all four have helped maintain and look after Alexandra Park, which culminated in it becoming one of the first green spaces in the north west to attain a Grade II* listing.

The fact that the same four workers met Joe again, after this significant amount of time shows the success of our apprenticeship schemes in nurturing emerging local talent.”

Thanks to apprenticeship schemes and the talent that comes into fruition as a result of them, we have a fantastic national reputation and some of the best public parks in Britain, including Alexandra Park, where Joe visited and saw the team in action, which has been given the accolade of a Green Flag Award. 

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