Secure your dream job: CAFRE careers event hears of opportunities in horticulture

David Dowd, Senior Lecturer, CAFRE welcomed Colin Kennedy, Greenspace Manager, Derry and Strabane District Council with Abigail Wilson (Portavogie) and Lewis Patton (Belfast) to the Horticulture Careers Day held at Greenmount Campus.

Horticulture students at CAFRE heard from a range of excellent industry speakers at the annual Horticulture Careers event held at Greenmount Campus.

Opening the Careers Forum, Head of Horticulture Branch, Paul Mooney provided inspiring words about the opportunities a career in horticulture can present.  Paul expressed confidence in the great opportunities within the industry for students who are enthusiastic and qualified in horticulture. He encouraged students to “Put yourself out there to secure your dream job”.

The first guest speaker was international Garden Designer, Diarmuid Gavin. Diarmuid, a frequent visitor to Greenmount, began by sharing his love for the horticultural industry. Diarmuid told students, “There is no better place to be, than working in the Horticulture industry”. He then reflected on his past experiences, the chances he took and how he came to be a successful Garden Designer. Diarmuid discussed how his designs are inspired, the works he has completed and his future plans.

One of his most recent projects is in Antrim Castle Gardens. He has created a fun, mechanical garden, similar to one seen at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Horticulture students from CAFRE assisted with the construction and planting of the garden, which was showcased for the first time at the Garden Show Ireland in May 2022. The Garden Designer and Television Personality advised his enthusiastic audience, “To make the most of opportunities, you are in a great college here with great facilities … totally primed to follow your own dreams.”

Greenspace Manager for Derry and Strabane District Council, Colin Kennedy then spoke to the group about plans for Acorn Farm. Acorn Farm is an exciting and innovative project to develop a high quality, urban food growing hub in Derry/Londonderry. Colin spoke of how “Horticulture is a real vocation. It offers a pathway, which if you are committed, will offer great personal rewards.”

The final speaker of the afternoon was Adam Ferguson, a CAFRE graduate, who worked as the Keeper of the Walled Garden at Hillsborough Castle. Adam has recently joined the Horticulture teaching Team at Greenmount Campus. Adam spoke of his experiences as a CAFRE student. He told of amazing World Skills journey, culminating with him competing for Team GB in the World Skills competition for Landscape Gardening in Abu Dhabi.  Adam strongly encouraged students to get involved in competition work to “Boost their technical skills, undergo fantastic personal development and demonstrate to employers the real value of your achievements”.  Adam’s enthusiasm and experience was as an inspiration to students to follow in his footsteps. Adam concluded that students should “Never underestimate the opportunities that are available in the horticulture sector and even when you are a student”.

Following the formal presentations the Further and Higher Education students met with the speakers and reviewed the current job opportunities on the job notice boards.