Oldham Council and Oldham College are launching a ground breaking apprenticeship scheme which has its roots firmly in the borough.
This week the first seven Intermediate Apprentices signed up to a Level 2 Diploma in Horticultural Certificate at the College – the first qualification of its kind run in the borough for decades.
A further 10 trainees and 13 advanced apprenticeships will enrol in May.
The scheme is the result of co-operative working between staff in the council’s Environmental Management team and Oldham College.
The seed for the course was first planted nearly a year ago when college staff approached the council regarding the grounds maintenance of the Rochdale Road campus and potential landscape developments.
Staff at both organisations decided they could work together and provide opportunities within the borough rather than having locals travelling elsewhere to look for opportunities.
Councillor Shoab Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Employment and Skills, said: “Our Environmental Management team has a proven track record of training employees and the wider community.
“Thanks to apprenticeship schemes and the talent that comes from them, we already have a fantastic national reputation and some of the best public parks in Britain, including Alexandra Park, which year on year secures Green Flag status.
“Over the last 15 years we’ve engaged with out of town providers to deliver the training but we have always had the vision that this could be delivered within the borough for Oldham Council staff and residents.
“Thanks to our partnership with Oldham College this has now come to fruition. We now want to build on that and create a learning offer for people across the region - ensuring Oldham is at the heart of learning and education within the sector. This not only provides a superb educational opportunity but also brings with it an economic benefit to the town.
Debra Woodruff, Deputy Principal at Oldham College said: “We are delighted to be working closely with Oldham Council to introduce a Horticulture Apprenticeship programme in Oldham.
“A local offer of this kind is long overdue and we look forward to being able to deliver this in the first class surroundings that Oldham’s parks offer. The partnership will also offer traineeship opportunities for local people to progress into sustained employment, and provide work experience placements for our students.
“We believe this is the start of a true partnership to upskill Oldham residents and allow them to compete in the Greater Manchester labour market.”
Further developments of the partnership are already being planned – Oldham College students on other courses, such as bricklaying and carpentry, could soon gain experience at council sites across the borough, helping to grow their skills and careers.
A land-based skills centre linked to Alexandra Park could also be developed.
For more information about the course log onto http://www.oldham.ac.uk/apprenticeships/