Get qualified in horticulture with TAFE

By Daniel Fuller

If you’d like to call yourself a professional horticulturist, you need a nationally accredited, industry-relevant qualification. Recently, I interviewed Ian Gaston from TAFE NSW for a podcast episode on gaining a TAFE horticultural qualification. Here is what he advised.

While university offers higher qualification options with a focus on theory and research, TAFE qualifications are created with industry input, have a focus on the practical application and hands-on skills associated with most of the field work roles in horticulture, and are more easily obtained than a bachelor’s degree.

Most people studying horticulture begin with a Certificate 2 or Certificate 3, and potentially gain an additional Certificate 4 or Diploma after gaining the skills and knowledge that are taught in the lower certifications.

A Certificate 2 will get you a foot in the door and allow you to be a professional horticulturist, but a Cert 3 or 4 will help you get into a more technical role or perhaps even help you reach a leadership position.

A diploma is a step above the Certificate 4, and often there is a pre-requisite for a lower certification before attempting to tackle this qualification level. Not everybody needs a diploma, but if the role you apply for requires more research or you are aiming for upper management, a diploma will help you achieve your goals.

There are a range of ways that TAFE can assist people with learning difficulties achieve their learning goals, including one-on-one assistance with staff and an easier qualification with a Certificate 1.

Today, students have the option of studying in-person, online, or a mix of both. In-person study has a number of obvious benefits. To begin with, you have access to a teacher that is able to demonstrate the correct way to do something, and they can provide feedback as you work. It can also be motivating for some students to have a designated space and time they need to attend TAFE.

The main advantage of studying online is that it’s more flexible. You are able to decide when and where to study, which makes it a better option for rural students, those with full-time jobs, and those who are running their own businesses.

Flexible online delivery can be beneficial for people studying in-person when they become sick or are otherwise unable to attend class. Ian mentioned that mental health can be a barrier for students to attend in-person lectures, and your TAFE will work with you so you don’t fall behind.

Some of the areas you can study as part of your horticultural qualification include work health and safety, sustainability, recognising plants, climate, soil, weeds, pests and diseases, propagation, pruning, turf, planting, irrigation, nutrition, conducting site inspections, coordinating workplace activities, implementing maintenance programs, plant health reports, storing and using chemicals, and many more.

Horticulture is a general area of study, and TAFE offers a range of more specific courses including conservation land management, production and retail horticulture, parks and gardens, landscape construction and design, arboriculture, turf and agriculture.

High school students can do vocational training in years 11 and 12 through TAFE, with two or four units of their HSC going toward a Certificate 2 in Horticulture. As part of the TAFE NSW Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program, they also get exposed to five hours of work experience each year to give them a chance to make professional connections and test a couple of different sectors of the industry. Other states have similar programs.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is quite stringent, and there’s a lot of work involved for staff to get you through the system, and Ian recommends that it can be quicker to simply undertake the study.

Ian also added that one of the biggest barriers to people enrolling in a horticultural course with TAFE is a lack of confidence in their own ability to complete the course, and commented that it is rare that he meets somebody who is not capable of achieving their desired qualification if they put in the time and effort. If you’re thinking of progressing your horticultural career, gaining new skills, and becoming more employable, make 2022 the year you decide to earn that qualification!

Above image: A design of this calibre by Robert Doyle Landscape Design requires a high-level skill set to design, implement and maintain.

(Image: Karen Smith)

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