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Environmental, Animals and Plants

The Job Market

livestock

  • According to Lantra (the Sector Skills Council for the environmental and land-based sector), well over a million people are employed in the various industries. Many more work voluntarily or do casual work when needed.

  • Almost all work areas need more young workers as many staff with management responsibility, especially in agriculture and the wildlife industry, are reaching retirement age

  • Some work areas have a big supply of young workers coming through, such as veterinary roles

  • In terms of employment nationally, agriculture is the most important part of the industry. Other major areas include landscaping, animal care and production horticulture, although some parts of the country have more workers in certain industries than others.

  • Most businesses are small, with much self-employment (especially in gardening).

  • The UK floristry market, which is worth over £1.5 billion, is made up of around 6000 businesses, most of them small. The majority of sales are made via the telephone or internet or as impulse buys from the supermarket - such competition threatens small, independent businesses

  • As more and more plants, flowers and seeds are available from around the world, gardeners, florists and garden centre workers need to increase their knowledge

  • There are 1000s of gardens and parks open to the public, many of which employ professional staff - although the recession has had an impact on the numbers of staff taken on. Some areas of the UK have a large number of well-known gardens and parks, such as London (e.g. Kew Gardens), Cornwall (home to the Eden Project and Sussex. Most of the National Trust (NT) properties have gardens, although some of the staff work voluntarily. The NT runs a very competitive gardening traineeship programme.

  • In some sectors, including agriculture and horticulture, it is more difficult to get enough workers, especially for temporary roles

  • Other work areas are popular, including animal care jobs and conservation work - to stand a chance for entry into work (or in some cases a course), volunteering is usually necessary

  • Zoos and animal parks exist all over the UK. Large numbers of staff are employed at some of the most well known ones but animal-related opportunities may be less plentiful than other areas, such as catering, cleaning or retail

  • Some parts of the industry are busier at certain times – eg there may be little work in parks and gardens in the winter months (although tree surgeons may need to remove dangerous branches after winter storms); florists may be more in demand on Valentine’s Day and at Easter and Christmas; and pony-trekking centres may only take on staff during the summer

  • Although many people do work regular hours, weekend and/or evening work is quite common in particular sectors – for instance, in some jobs dealing with animals (eg in rescue homes) and for sports turf staff who work for professional sports clubs.
  • Women predominate in some parts of the industry, such as in animal care and floristry. The majority of veterinary nurses are female, for instance. Although the male/female breakdown of veterinary surgeons is well balanced, there are far more females on veterinary surgeon courses than males.   

  • One of the main problems with parts of the industry, say employers, is that staff do not always stay - prospective entrants to the land-based and environmental sector need to be realistic about the work that might be involved
  • Some employers value experience and skills more than actual qualifications, says Lantra