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Apprenticeship in Botanical Horticulture

Sign up for our two-year practical horticulture course with day release academic study.

Course overview

The two-year Kew apprenticeship run by the School of Horticulture aims to teach the highest standards of professional craft horticultural skills by offering a structured training in amenity and botanical horticulture and underpinning knowledge from college study. The apprenticeship provides participants with employment to gain practical experience and an understanding of the horticultural operations at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Course objectives

The Kew apprenticeship is an entry level position designed for individuals desiring a professional career at senior craft level in botanical or amenity horticulture. Applicants should enjoy physical activities and be prepared for early starts and working outdoors through the seasons. Apprentices are employed on a salary and college fees and staff exchanges are supported financially by the School of Horticulture.   

A Kew apprentice will gain work experience in each of the two horticultural sections: Arboretum, Gardens & Horticultural Services, and Glasshouses, Nurseries and Display Horticulture. 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 using 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 and prepare for the horticulture operative Trailblazer apprenticeship standard. This is the new government scheme.

Find out more about the government's Apprenticeship standard: horticulture and landscape operative.

Course content

Placement structure

Apprentices will be placed in a different horticultural section each year. On-the-job training will be arranged and delivered by garden managers and trainers with focus on practical skills using real tasks.

Placements are divided into the following sections:

Two six-month placements: Arboretum, Gardens and Horticultural Services

  • Arboretum and Nursery
  • Gardens

Three four-month placements: Glasshouses, Nurseries and Display Horticulture

  • Nurseries
  • Conservatories
  • Display Horticulture

Course teaching

Training and assessment

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&6, theoretical tuition and practical demonstrations will be delivered by specialists. 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, and the opportunity to work with a very wide range of plants, developing horticultural amenity and landscape features, and environments.

Training logs

Apprentices receive a unique training log, specific to the section they are working in, which records training undertaken. Team leaders or trainers are responsible for the basic on-the-job training which is reviewed every three months.

Course assessment

Practical assessment

In order to pass the apprenticeship, you must:

  • successfully pass the practical placement 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
  • participate in regular apprentice/ employer reviews every 3 months
  • attend college and pass the Trailblazer standard end point independent assessment

Successful participants will be awarded an Apprenticeship Certificate and a Transcript of Practical Training. This is a Trailblazer Standard apprenticeship nationally recognised.

Work journals

Apprentices are required to produce a weekly practical work journal to record personal learning on a daily basis. These work journals are evidence of development and learning and will form a basis for checking the apprentice is ready for the end point assessment. 

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 an average of 200 plants per year. These will be presented as twenty plants a month, initially starting with ten plants in August, by an ident coordinator. Apprentices will study these plants and be assessed with regular plant identification tests. These tests will incorporate previous months' plants to ensure plant knowledge is remembered. Apprentices will also complete a weekly plant profile on a species they are working on to build plant knowledge.

Application process

Apprentices require a good standard of education: 2 GCSEs (or equivalent) including English and Maths at grade C/4 or above and significant horticultural work experience or volunteering in a professional horticultural environment (normally equivalent to a minimum of 3 months). Trailblazer apprenticeships are backed by the UK government and are subject to UK government funding rules.


  • must not be enrolled on another apprenticeship
  • must be 16 or over after the last Friday in June of the start year
  • must be able to complete the apprenticeship in the 2 years
  • must have been normally resident in the EEA for the past 3 years
  • must not have a full level 2 or higher qualification in Horticulture
  • must be eligible to work in the United Kingdom and undertake the apprenticeship training.

for which there is a salary of £14,714 per annum with a one-off book and equipment payment of £725 (rates increasing to £15,429 effective 1 April 2019). Limited opportunities also exist to care for the collections at weekends and these receive additional payment. 

Kew welcomes international applicants, as we firmly believe in this ethos. However Kew is unable to sponsor applicants to work in the United Kingdom for the Kew Apprenticeship.  It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure eligibility to work in the United Kingdom for the duration of the appointment; see UK Visa and Immigration 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 and residency in the EEA for the last three years at interview.


Online applications, together with an essay of 250–500 words describing why you wish to undertake the Kew Apprenticeship, should be submitted no later than 6 March in the year of recruitment. Interviews are scheduled for April, with the apprenticeship starting the first Monday in August.


This is a two-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.