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Govt offers horticultural certification

A new training programme aims to encourage more Bermudians to become landscape gardeners and further shed the number of expatriate workers in the industry.

Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Kim Wilson has launched the new horticultural qualification to give Bermudians the “necessary skills, knowledge and attitude” to find landscaping work.

The first 12 participants have been selected for the National Training Board’s (NTB) certificate in basic horticulture, which is being described as “a standard of excellence”.

They will undergo on-the-job training in 15 core subjects including soil science and nutrients, conservation and biodiversity, plant propagation, pruning and turf management, weeds, pests and diseases starting Thursday.

They will be employed by the Parks Department, Corporation of Hamilton or private companies. They will also attend Bermuda College every Thursday for a year.

It comes after Government introduced a controversial policy requiring landscape gardening positions to be filled by Bermudians. The moratorium denied initial work permit requests to create “real job opportunities” for Bermudians.

Senator Wilson said the training programme was a “step in the right direction” for an industry “heavily reliant on migrant workers”.

She said: “The landscape gardener represents a significant category for work permit issuance requested by employers.

“With the introduction of this programme, we are not only addressing the need for skilled Bermudian workers in this field we are also decreasing the need for work permits and sustaining employability to enable businesses to continue with their operations.”

Sen Wilson added that it was their aim to “get people back to work” during the economic downfall by “giving the tools they need to enter the workforce”.

She said it had taken two years of behind-the-scenes work to make horticulture the newest designated trade for certification.

The senator said: “This is an important approach towards empowering our citizens by ensuring that they are equipped with the necessary skills, knowledge and attitude to perform specific job tasks.”

Those eligible for the programme have to be Bermudian or a spouse of a Bermudian with an interest in landscaping or horticulture, but no previous experience is necessary. They are assigned to a mentor throughout the programme.

The programme fee is $1,195 per semester with the cost being equally split between the employer and the NTB.

Employers will also benefit from the payroll tax relief training scheme, which waives payroll taxes for trainees for up to 24 months.

All graduates will receive a Bermuda College Workforce Development Certificate in basic horticulture, which is endorsed by the NTB.

Sen Wilson said: “We are encouraged by industry ‘buy-in’ … their commitment to create a level playing field offers broader opportunities and asserts competitive advantages for those serious about improving their talent base.”

The NTB aims to have “an adequate supply of trained manpower in occupations in all branches of economic activity in Bermuda”.

It turned its attention to horticulture after implementing similar national certification for electricians, automotive service technicians and welders.

Sen Wilson said the NTB was working directly with the industry to “shape the characteristics of our present and future workforce”.

She said: “These days you don’t really have to look too far to appreciate the challenges that we are facing in our labour force.

“It’s in practically every news headline, it’s the chat around the office water cooler and it’s the topic of discussion at the dinner table.”

Sen Wilson launched the horticulture training scheme at a press conference yesterday, flanked by four of the 12 participants.

Domonique Lambert, 20, is to work towards his horticultural certification in the hope that one day he will run his own company.

He has been looking for work for about a year after being laid-off from his construction job and says he’s now “looking forward to the future”.

Mr Lambert of Smith’s, who started working for Brown and Company yesterday, said: “This is something different and something I’m actually looking forward to doing.

“I feel very excited and very grateful for the opportunity. I love nature and working in the outdoors. I’d love to have my own horticultural company.”

All those who are deemed ‘nationally certified’ will be listed on the NTB website at www.ntb.bm

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Published September 02, 2011 at 11:10 am (Updated September 02, 2011 at 11:10 am)

Govt offers horticultural certification

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