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Historic Glasshouse Apprenticeship

The three-year Kew Historic Glasshouse Apprenticeship has been developed to support the Temperate House Precinct Restoration Project.
Temperate House hoardings

The project

This high profile project, running until 2018, aims to restore one of the world’s largest Victorian conservatories to its former glory and rejuvenate the historically and scientifically important plant collections inside it. The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Defra and a range of other donors.

The apprenticeship

The Kew Historic Glasshouse Apprenticeship scheme, part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is open to individuals who can demonstrate a passion for horticulture, and provides a unique opportunity to learn a range of skills required to maintain plant collections in conservatories.

Some skills and practices will be contemporary, while others will be preserving traditional methods to maintain historic accuracy.

Diverse backgrounds

Kew wishes to recruit from a wide range of backgrounds and especially encourages applications from young people from local communities (Hammersmith & Fulham, Richmond, Ealing and Hounslow) to benefit from training and skills. These will give you confidence to succeed in specialist horticultural careers as well as increasing the number and diversity of people who actively engage with and work in the historic environment.

Course objectives

The Historic Glasshouse Apprenticeship is an entry level position designed for individuals desiring a professional career at senior craft level in botanical or amenity horticulture. Apprentices are employed on a salary, and college fees and staff exchanges are supported financially by the School of Horticulture.

A Historic Glasshouse Apprentice will gain work experience in the Glasshouses, Nurseries and Display Horticulture section. As part of this work experience, on-the-job training will be arranged and delivered by garden managers and trainers, with a focus on practical skills via real tasks. Personal development is encouraged with a two-week staff exchange to a European botanic garden or plant collection and a competitive travel scholarship opportunity for two weeks at the beginning of the second year.

Each apprentice will be granted day release to attend a local horticultural college, where they will study for the highly respected and nationally accredited RHS Level 2 Diploma in the Principles and Practices of Horticulture in the first two years, and RHS level 3 certificate in the Principles of Plant Growth, Health and Applied Propagation and RHS level 3 certificate in Practical Horticulture in the third year.

Placement structure

Historic Glasshouse Apprentices will change placements every six months and experience the following work areas depending on progress of the Temperate House restoration.

  • Temperate House propagation
  • Display Conservatory
  • Tropical Nursery
  • Aquatic and Rock gardens / Alpine House
  • Decorative Unit
  • Temperate House

Course teaching

Training and assessment
Historic Glasshouse apprentices have a training plan that outlines everything needed to achieve their certificate. On-the-job training will be integrated with training day sessions as needed including relevant certificates of competence — for example: application of pesticides PA 1&6a, where theoretical tuition and practical demonstration will be delivered by Kew specialists. Kew Historic Glasshouse apprentices have access to our libraries, computer and information systems.

Practical placements
The work placements are intended to make two major contributions to the scheme as a whole:

  • the acquisition of craft, technical and employment skills
  • the opportunity to experience the major restoration of a significant Victorian glasshouse, nursery and propagation work, and planting of bedding schemes for display

Training logs
Historic Glasshouse apprentices receive a unique training log for recording work undertaken specific to the section they are working in. Team leaders or trainers are responsible for the basic on-the-job training, which is reviewed every three months.

Work journals
Historic Glasshouse apprentices are required to produce a practical work journal to record personal learning on a daily basis. These work journals are evidence of development and learning and will be presented to the Studentship Review board, prior to graduation. Historic Glasshouse apprentices also complete a weekly plant profile on a species they are working with to build plant knowledge.

Plant profiles and monthly identification tests
Apprentices are required to learn about up to a total of 120 plants per year. These will be presented as ten plants a month by an ident coordinator. Apprentices will complete plant profiles for these plants and be assessed with a plant identification test. These tests will incorporate previous months' plants leading to an overall test at the end of each year.

Course assessment

In order to pass the Kew Historic Glasshouse Apprenticeship, you must:
  • successfully pass the practical placement to the required standard by achieving competence in horticultural tasks supported by your supervisor
  • undertake all standard training requirements
  • produce a weekly work journal for each placement
  • attend the monthly identification tests
  • attend the End of Scheme review

Successful participants will be awarded a Kew Historic Glasshouse Apprenticeship Certificate and a Transcript of Practical Training. This is a bespoke programme managed by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Application process

Apprentices require a good standard of education — 3 GCSEs (or equivalent) including English, Maths and Science at grade C or above and three months full-time horticultural work experience or volunteering in a professional horticultural environment. We will not consider applicants already in possession of a RHS horticultural qualification at level 2 or above as we are keen to support those without these qualifications.

Kew Historic Glasshouse apprentices must be eligible to work in the United Kingdom for which there is a salary of £14,040 per annum, plus a book allowance of £725 (rates current 2017). Limited opportunities also exist to care for the collections at weekends and these receive additional payment.

Kew welcomes international applicants. However, we are unable to sponsor applicants to work in the United Kingdom for the Kew Historic Glasshouse Apprenticeship. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure eligibility to work in the United Kingdom for the duration of the appointment. See the United Kingdom Border Agency website for the latest regulations. 

All successful applicants called to interview will be required to provide documentary evidence of their right to work in the United Kingdom at interview.

The practical training is a non-accredited qualification backed by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, with the RHS Diploma Level 2, which is accredited. Two employed apprentices are recruited per year.


Online applications, together with an essay of 250 to 500 words describing why you wish to undertake the Kew Historic Glasshouse Apprenticeship, should be returned no later than 26 March in the year of recruitment. Interviews are scheduled for April, with the apprenticeship starting the first Monday in August.


This is a three-year fixed term appointment (employment). Apprentices receive 30 days leave in addition to day release to attend college.


We will only contact those candidates selected for interview. Therefore, if you have not heard from us within three weeks of the closing date, you should presume that you will not be called for interview.

Apply now