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Capel Manor College asks employers for input

Capel Manor College asks employers for input

17 May, 2023

Capel Manor College asks employers for input

Capel Manor College (CMC) held its first Floristry Employer Roundtable Event at New Covent Garden Market on May 16th, as part of its ongoing commitment to future-proof its students by providing them with the right skill sets to go out and make an impact in the business world.

Head of School Floristry and Event Styling, Louise Quigley told attendees: “We want to make sure our Level 1-5 floristry courses are equipped to drive florists into the industry. This event is to help us understand how the industry is evolving – the trends and changes. Is there something missing, are there skills gaps that we as a college can take on board?”

Four Student Ambassadors told the meeting about their experiences at Capel Manor:

  • Cassie Fox, who swapped the fashion industry boardroom for floristry classes, said her time learning the art has been a “wonderful, joyful experience”. She has been inspired by the variety of tutors and teaching styles at CMC to go down the teaching route herself
  • Siobhan O’Hara had worked for a number of years in after school clubs before working at community project Camden Garden Centre and being recommended CMC. “The tutors are above and beyond amazing,” she said. “I’ve done work experience at Moyses Stevens and worked on an installation at Chelsea Flower Show – where else can you get experience like that?”
  • Jayn Wills has been in the fashion industry for 30 years and latterly was assistant to her florist daughter Gemma. When Gemma sadly passed away in 2021, Jayn was inspired to follow her into CMC and discovered “a passion I didn’t know I had”. Now she has set up a foundation in Gemma’s memory, which raises funds through a pre-loved clothes outlet and a flower stall, in Epping. “I didn’t realise how much I’d learnt from Gemma,” said Jayn. “When I’m at Capel Manor, I feel like she is there guiding me.   
  • Julie Price is a Vidal Sassoon trained hair stylist turned social worker then policewoman who has caught the floristry bug at the tail-end of her career and is committed to becoming a Master Florist. “My son asked me to do the flowers for his wedding and I’d never ‘done’ flowers,” she said. “I did two courses and worked solidly for three days to do the wedding, but I fell in love with flowers in the process and now I’m studying the Level 4 Higher National Diploma.”
Left to right, Siobhan, Julie, Jayn and Cassie gave a mature student's eye view on Capel Manor College and the floristry industry

Each woman extolled the virtues of the college, but they all agreed that the industry needs to get involved on a much grander scale to increase the relevance of the training. Siobhan said what is lacking amongst the younger students is “people skills and a can-do attitude” and that meaningful industry input could help to alter that. Julie said people across the industry should “take the students into their care and teach them what they know”, adding “I don’t think we can be prepared enough for what comes next without that.”

All of the employers present were asked to fill in a form explaining the structure of their business and detailing the types of skills they felt would be most would be most relevant to fill their skills gaps.

Freddie Heathcote of Green & Bloom detailed the recent restructure of his firm and said the knowledge gained by seeing a unique range of products and talking to industry experts at NCGM simply can't be replicated by an online sales platform

Freddie Heathcote, a Director of Green & Bloom at New Covent Garden Flower Market, gave a talk about his business and the market, and Bryan Porter, Managing Director of Porters Foliage, underlined the importance of making training as relevant as possible and preparing students for the reality of the workplace. “There is a need to set people’s expectations of the job they are going to end up doing,” he said. “There is a view that floristry is a glamorous job – some of it can be, but however successful or famous you might become, it’s not all glamour, it’s hard, it’s difficult,” he said. “Floristry isn’t going to get any easier; we need students to have experience of as diverse a cross-section of the industry as possible – it’s not just about making a bouquet or a hand-tie.”

Nikki Meader 'grew up' in New Covent Garden, where her father traded from the old Growers' Pavilion

Other speakers included Nikki Meader, Chair of the British Florist Association, who interestingly revealed that her father traded for many years out of the Growers’ Pavilion at NCGM, and Chris Jones, City & Guilds Industry Manager for Land, who explained government educational reforms that will fundamentally change the way further education is delivered in England, with the introduction of new ‘T Level’s’. Both agreed that increased industry input is key to ensuring that floristry training institutions are capable of producing successful students who leave properly geared up for a career in floristry.

Chris Jones asked employers to put aside a moment or two to think about the future and get involved with the training process for the next generation of employees for their industry

Tommy Leighton
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