Teachers and other educators of commercial horticulture many be employed in a variety of ways. Some may work at government run institutions and colleges but most are likely to be employed by the private sector. Some may be full time educators, but others may work part-time and have industry roles outside of teaching.
Scope of Work
Educators may work in a variety of settings from providing adult education in schools or colleges to in-house training for horticultural enterprises. Some may be involved in distance learning but others in face-to-face tuition.
Training can involve performing demonstrations for groups of horticulture employees, conducting role plays, showing instructional videos or working through structured training sessions. Trainers may be people brought in by companies with a specific purpose of educating staff, or they may be supervisors within a business who have the experience or background to provide this type of service.
In educational settings, instruction is more likely to be in the form of teaching. This can range from giving lessons in classrooms to seminars with small groups of students or individual tutorials. There will ordinarily be some sort of assessment of each student's performance, typically through coursework, verbal or written exams.
Daily work may involve preparing lessons or training sessions, assessing assignments or performance, providing feedback and written reports, interacting with students or employees in a learning environment, and working on curriculum and new learning material.
Most educators need a broad background in horticulture but often have specific knowledge in areas of expertise.
What You Need to Learn
Teaching skills - Organising curriculum, presenting lectures, tutorials or training sessions, writing lessons or seminars, assessing students or trainees
Plant science - Basic botany; biology, physiology, anatomy, ecology, nutrition
Plant knowledge - Plant and turf species & cultivars, identification & cultural characteristics of many different varieties, and weed species
Cultural management techniques - Pruning plants, watering frequency and duration, how to repair & renovate, planting, transplanting, staking, weed and biosecurity management
Health management - Plant pests, diseases and environmental disorders
Propagation - Leaf, root, hardwood & softwood cuttings; division, layering, budding, grafting, tissue culture
Environmental control - Ventilation, irrigation & misting, heating & cooling, lighting, carbon dioxide injection
Soils - Potting media & soil structure, chemistry, management techniques e.g. improving soils, aeration, etc.
Drainage - Surface, subsurface, flood mitigation
Irrigation - Equipment selection, installation, use
Specific knowledge - Additional knowledge in areas of expertise
Starting a Career
A lot of people who end up working as educators do so by first doing other things. Some come into this area of work later in life having had other jobs and careers in horticulture where they may have accumulated specialist knowledge.
Some educators start out as employees in a garden centre or similar environment as a non-skilled member of staff but eventually move towards education. Others may begin by working as a garden labourer, moving up the ladder before realising that they get a thrill from teaching and sharing knowledge. It is not uncommon for people to be told by those they have supervised or worked closely with that they would make a good teacher.
Another possibility is to get general gardening experience through working for a local gardening club or volunteering to help maintain the grounds at a local site. Going to trade shows and garden events can also be good ways to network and get a feel for what openings might be out there.
Once you have gained enough experience you may be able to take on more responsibility and be trusted with running tutorials or training sessions. You could also consider doing some study whilst working part-time to try and move on to education roles more quickly.
Progressing a Career
Educators, perhaps more than anyone, must continually strive to update their knowledge and keep themselves informed of industry changes and innovations.
Even those who have been in teaching roles for some time never remain static. The onus is often on the individual to continually learn, although better institutions and businesses will offer in-house training or fund employees to attend seminars and workshops where they can upgrade their skills.
To advance a career, educators must learn about new research relevant to their industry, changes in laws and regulations, new technology, and changes to learning methods and instructional skills.
Those who are educators with specialist knowledge will need to keep that knowledge current. Joining trade associations or bodies is a good way to keep up to date with current trends and technological advancements in the industry. Attending garden shows, agricultural shows and trade shows is another way to learn by networking with like-minded people.
Another good way to fill any gaps in your knowledge is through further study, especially courses which cover the points listed under ‘things you need to know’ above.