In the news: Dr Cara Daly writes about routes into horticulture

This year, Eimear plans on embarking on the Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Horticulture in Teagasc’s Kildalton College located 30 minutes from Waterford city, in Piltown Co. Kilkenny. After that, if Eimear wants a higher qualification, she can join year 2 of the WIT -Teagasc Horticulture degree.

This year, Eimear plans on embarking on the Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Horticulture in Teagasc’s Kildalton College located 30 minutes from Waterford city, in Piltown Co. Kilkenny. After that, if Eimear wants a higher qualification, she can join year 2 of the WIT -Teagasc Horticulture degree.

Horticulture (Kildalton) course leader Dr Cara Daly discusses routes into Horticulture in the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland (RHSI) magazine

Nowadays, a person’s career path seldomly ends up being a straight road between school and career fulfilment. After school, I wanted to be a PE teacher (in reality, I just liked playing sport) but after dropping out of college, I ended up working in pharma for a few years until I realised I was completely unfulfilled.

So at 27 years old, with the help of a SUSI grant and a part-time job, I enrolled as a fulltime general science student in UCD determined to study something I loved but not yet knowing what that was. After finishing a Botany degree my love for plants and their many uses was solidified, and consequently my inquisitive (and stubborn) nature buoyed me through a PhD in plant cell biology.

Eight years after setting foot in UCD, I took up a position as the Horticulture programme leader in WIT where today, I look after programme development, teach, and supervise postgraduate students who, like me, are inquisitive about the world and plants’ role in it. See – the path to career fulfilment is seldom straight, or indeed, planned.

I took a circuitous route into Horticulture so at first, didn’t appreciate the nuances of the industry associated with it, but the two things that struck me when I started to work in Horticulture education was the diversity of horticulture jobs available to those qualified, and also the diversity of horticulture students in terms of age, background and motivation.

Here are a couple of those peoples’ stories.

Eimear is just starting out on her education journey.

Kilkenny native Eimear Delahunty (26) has recently completed a Level 5 Certificate in Horticulture in The Grow Project in Ferrybank, Waterford City. After school, Eimear undertook a few garden maintenance jobs and found them enjoyable as she didn’t really see them as “work”. Although she enjoyed PE and Maths at school, she found it difficult to focus on something for college. She says “I first tried a social studies course straight out of secondary school but a couple of months in I quickly realised it wasn't for me as I just found myself wanting to be outside”. 

One could claim Eimear has gardening in her genes; her Dad has developed a gorgeous herbaceous garden and grows all the staple vegetables. He got Eimear involved early in life and she has developed an appreciation for watching the garden grow and flourish though all seasons. Eimear saw the Grow Project as a place where she could get a feel for horticulture and importantly, a qualification after only a year. She now plans to further her studies but isn’t too sure which area of Horticulture she wants to work in; at the moment she finds herself passionate about anything to do with horticulture, nature, and the environment. 

Thankfully, when Eimear is well qualified, the diversity of jobs available in horticulture will ensure Eimear has lots of options. This year, Eimear plans on embarking on the Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Horticulture in Teagasc’s Kildalton College located 30 minutes from Waterford city, in Piltown Co. Kilkenny. After that, if Eimear wants a higher qualification, she can join year 2 of the WIT -Teagasc Horticulture degree where, as well as furthering her horticulture knowledge, she will gain the confidence and skills to eventually work as a supervisor or manager in the Horticulture industry. If Eimear wants to gain an Honours degree, she has the option of simply enrolling on the 1-year Add-On in Land Management (in Horticulture) in WIT and after that, WIT have MSc, and PhD horticulture options by research. 

David is just finishing up his L7 WIT BSc in the Botanic Gardens.

Growing up in France, David Remaud was always interested in the outdoors. He was sporty, and enjoyed maths, drawing classes and science at school. He gained a Certificate in Transport and Logistics and happily worked in the area for 12 years before taking a year-long career break during which he worked for a friend who had his own landscape business. David got hooked on Horticulture and after a further 3 years landscaping, decided he needed to learn more. 

Although it took David a while to realise his true calling, the signs were there early on. He tells me “I used to spend my holiday time with my Grandad who was a retired farmer. My brother and I would dig up spuds and harvest beans in the summer months and also eat perhaps too many fresh strawberries! My dad also had a potager where we grew veg for the family, and he still does it. I guess that is where my love of plants and growing comes from”.

David embarked on his formal horticulture education at the age of 34. He attended an Open Day to determine his course and funding options and then joined the Level 5 Certificate in Horticulture in Teagasc’s College of Amenity Horticulture in The National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin. Then he undertook the Level 6 Advanced Cert in Horticulture also in the Botanic Gardens, and subsequently transferred into year 2 of the WIT-Teagasc Level 7 Horticulture BSc. which, you’ve guessed it, also runs in The Botanic Gardens! David is due to graduate in 2019.

I asked David about his plans for the future. “That is a tricky question!” he says. “There are so many ways you can go within the horticulture industry. When I started college my aim was to set up my own landscape company, but as my education progressed my eyes were opened to topics like Social Therapy, Ecology and Biodiversity, now I see my career path as a mix of all. My focus for the future is about making cities greener. The concrete city can be very harsh, and it’s easy to lose our connection with nature, bringing a balance back into urban spaces will have benefits for both the communities and the businesses. So maybe one day we will be able to pick our fresh strawberries from O'Connell street planters - that would make me happy!”

Ireland’s horticulture future

In my experience, our WIT-Teagasc Horticulture graduates not only gain invaluable horticulture knowledge and skills, but they also have their minds and hearts open to newly discovered areas of horticulture and they graduate with many strings in their bow.

Plus, they are highly employable; in a recent survey of graduates, over 80% had found employment within 3 months of finishing their courses. Perhaps more importantly, they are happier; in 2014, horticulturalists were ranked as the 3rd happiest professionals, (behind chief executives, and vicars). 

There is a skills shortage amongst home-grown applicants for horticulture jobs and while government advocacy for dairy farming, pharma and the IT sector continues, the skills shortage in Horticulture will only get more acute; a well-qualified horticulture graduate will soon be able to cherry-pick the best positions. All you need is the love for plants and the outdoors, and the bravery to make the big step to change careers. After that, the world is your oyster (plant).


Level 5 and 6

Teagasc in The College of Amenity Horticulture in the National Botanic Gardens and in Kildalton College offer level 5 and level 6 full-time and also some part-time component awards. Check out [url=][/url] for more info or call ‘The Bots’ on 01-8040201 or Kildalton College on 051-644400. 


Gradates of the level 6 (6M4334) can apply to transfer to year 2 of the WIT Level 7 BSc. in Horticulture. Applications are made directly to WIT. Want to upgrade an older Horticulture qualification? Call Cara Daly on 051-302076 to discuss as you may be able to transfer into year 2, or even year 3 of the WIT BSc.

Mature applicants

Mature students are encouraged to apply to all years. Entry to year 1 of the WIT BSc. is via [url=][/url]. WIT are offering part-time Level 7 Certs in Landscape Design, Nursery Stock Production, Sportsturf Science, or Sustainable Food Production between September and December 2019. Check out [url=][/url] for more information or contact Cara on 051-302076.

This article was published in the May edition of the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland quarterly magazine and reproduced here by their kind permission.

Related Courses

Bachelor of Science in  Horticulture (Kildalton College)
Bachelor of Science in  Horticulture (National Botanic Gardens)
Bachelor of Science (Honours) in  Land Management in Horticulture

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