While the idea of ‘serving an apprenticeship’ may seem vague because every experience and workplace are different – which can cause uncertainty about what to expect – the reality is that an apprenticeship is one of the most straightforward qualifications you can achieve.

With schools, universities and other similar tertiary institutions it’s often easy to anticipate how things will work – there’s classes, and assignments and exams. But an apprenticeship – on the job training – is not a model familiar to most school leavers.

Primary ITO’s training adviser horticulture, Jonathan Gradwell, says the beauty of an apprenticeship is that you can start by knowing nothing – everything is new – and be confident that after three, or 3 years, you will be somebody who can take responsibility in the workplace.

“A big part of an apprenticeship is the transference of skills from an experienced person to one who is not. It’s about absorbing knowledge on the job by doing and reviewing, and by listening and observing highly skilled colleagues.”

Apprenticeships do involve ‘classroom scenarios’ in the form of block courses, evening classes or day release classes, as well as on the job assessments. While in the past apprenticeships were based on hours served, the model has now shifted to one that is skills-based.

The support of family, whanau, employers, work colleagues, and a training adviser will be critical to successful completing the course – don’t try to do it in isolation.

“From the beginning, you need to clarify the career path you’re going to take, set goals and develop a training plan. Your training adviser and your employer can mentor you and help you navigate the ups and downs.

“A large part of the apprenticeship process is to be aware of your weaknesses and work to your strengths so that you know where to put in the effort and where you are going,” says Jonathan.

An apprenticeship is an three to 3 year journey in which there are lots of different pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle, but also lots of ‘ah ha’ moments when it all comes together.

Based in Wellington, Jonathan’s work in horticulture means that he works with mostly service based skillsets like Amenity Horticulture (gardening), Landscaping, Arboriculture, Nursery and Sports Turf Apprenticeships.

“They’re united by the fact that no matter what their specialisation, they all work with plants. For example, a landscaper is a builder who builds gardens, and of course plants come into it.

“With every apprenticeship, the benefit is that you earn as you learn, and when you’re finished, you’re not only qualified to lead other people and to do the job at a high level – you will be sought after for your skills throughout New Zealand and most of the Western world,” says Jonathan.


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