The renowned National Learning Network horticultural training course is celebrating its tenth anniversary at the Manor in Edgeworthstown this summer.
The two year, FÁS funded programme, aims to provide learners with the necessary skills, knowledge and attitude to gain employment or further education within the horticulture sector.
Speaking of the anniversary, course coordinator Alan Garvey said the programme has gone from strength to strength. “We’ve recently upgraded our facilities in Edgeworthstown to include propagation tunnels, a new computer room, a canteen, new classrooms and the feedback from the students has been excellent.”
The course is both practical and theory based and is designed to cover the basic principals of horticulture in the first year of study before specialising into areas of expertise in the second year.
Students, who are made up of all ages, gain other qualifications such as first aid, manual handling, computer skills and also acquire the ‘safe pass’ during the programme. Students also undertake work experience with local garden centres and landscapers, with many eventually finding work with these employers.
Recently, students of the National Learning Network in Edgeworthstown developed a sensory garden for the patrons of Our Lady’s Manor Nursing Home as part of their final project. The garden has proven a feast for the senses for both the residents and the staff of the nursing home.
“The sensory garden initative by the students boasts a water feature, a large pergola, a wildflower garden, a children’s play area as well as an array of plants that bring the whole space together beautifully. The plants were specially selected by the students to create a more harmonising experience for the people enjoying the space,” Mr Garvey told the Leader.
“It brings together alot of the skills learnt while on the training programme. From hard landscaping to garden design and planting. Plant propgation was also a key factor as many of the plants were grown on site,” Mr Garvey added.
Kay Hudson, who completed the course and now works as a horticultural advisor in Homebase Longford described the course as a wonderful experience. “I had been out of work for a long time, and this course brought me along no end. Not only did I get to learn absolutely everything about all aspects of gardening, I also got to go out and meet new people.
“I have no doubt in my mind I would be still at home unemployed and feeling sorry for myself if it hadn’t been for the course. It’s a very positive way of learning. I really enjoyed it, apart from the weeding of course,” Mrs Hudson laughed.
The programme, which is certified at FETAC Level 4, caters for horticultural enthusiasts from all over, but in particular counties Longford, Westmeath, Roscommon and Cavan. The Edgeworthstown facility is serviced by bus and train as well as a National Learning Network shuttle bus from Longford town.
The next programme is set to begin in June this year, with Mr Garvey already reporting a strong interest in places. “If you look around, the horticultural and agricultural sectors are booming. Most courses end up being oversubscribed and there’s been great interest shown this year,” Mr Garvey said.
No fees apply to National Learning Network courses, and there are no formal entry requirements, although applicants must be over 16 and have received prior approval from FÁS.
The programme for this coming June has a limited number of places available and interested persons should contact Alan Garvey on 087 906 5521. Further information is also available from the National Learning Network, Longford at 6 Grafton Court or on 043 33 42255.