Jacob Botting of Myerscough College has been announced as ‘Best in the UK’ in landscaping after winning gold at the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) WorldSkills UK final.
Ross Conquest of Conquest Hard Landscaping took silver, and, Aaron Byrne of Reaseheath College took bronze.
The APL WorldSkills final took place last week from 17-19 November at The Skills Show at the Birmingham NEC in front of over 100,000 visitors per day Over the four days, one of which being a training/prep day, the competitors had 16 hours to build a garden designed by head judge and technical lead Jody Lidgard.
Jacob spoke to us about winning his gold medal "I'm still in shock. The competition was so close, I didn't expect it at all. I'm back at work now so It will probably hit me when I get the time to sit down and think about it a bit more. I would recommend the competition to anyone looking to improve themselves. Of any age. I think this is what I've really gained from the competition. ( and a set of drills)."
Speaking to Ross after he won his silver medal, he said, "It's not just about saying you can do it, it's about proving you can do it."
Aaron Byrne, Bronze medal winner said "It's a good, equal competition. It's tough and hard work but it's worth it. I try to plan my day out as much as possible so I know exactly how much time I have to do everything in."
Having competed in heat stages in May and the semi-finals at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park in July, the final seven had proven their skills to the judges to be in the running for the title of ‘Best in the UK’ at the Skills Show.
During the final they were marked on elements such as block paving, recessed drain covers, timberwork (which included decking and fencing), planting, health and safety and the overall appearance throughout the three days. The finalists were also tested on their knowledge to name ten of the plants that were included in the gardens.
Overall, this year’s finalists included Jacob Botting from Myerscough College, Aaron Byrne from Reaseheath College, Ross Conquest from Conquest Hard Landscaping, Josh Dow from SRUC Oatridge, Jonathan Long and Shea McFerren from CAFRE and Christopher Page from Dundee and Angus College.
Speaking to Christopher Page during the competition he said "It's difficult because of the time limit but it's a great experience. I'm starting my own company so it's really worthwhile being involved."
Judges for the competition included garden designer Jody Lidgard, who has run his own landscaping firm for over 19 years, APL Member Steve Smith of Shore Landscapes, and 2011 WorldSkillsUK Silver medal winner, Simon Abbott. Simon will also be taking over the role of UK Training Expert from 2017 for the International WorldSkills competition.
Talking about the WorldSkills competitions, Jody said, "It’s great to see new talent coming forward and competing in what is a very realistic and intense environment." Jody went on to say that "working to an industry standard whilst maintaining commercial pace is something all of our competitors were aspiring to".
"The show went really well and the work was of a very high standard, some very clean and sharp plots. I've been looking out for health and safety as this is key within our industry but I have also been looking at individual talents and skills. " said Simon Abbott
"This is my first time as a judge for APL WorldSkills and I am staggered at the level of expertise of these candidates, it's really encouraging to see young people embarking on a career in landscaping." said Steve Smith.
The APL would like to thank sponsors Makita UK for supplying all of the tools and equipment for the competitors, Marshalls for all the paving and supplies, J A Jones for all the plants that were used within the gardens, and Jewsons for their support for the show.
Kevin Brannigan from Makita said "It's all about giving something back to young people and colleges. The prizes we gave were important as we want to support people at an age where they might not be able to afford to buy a full kit of tools, making a living and doing the job properly by using the correct tools will set these finalists in a good position for the future. "
Phil Tremayne, National Business Manager for the APL said, "The industry has a skills shortage and the APL feels it should support young people entering this sector. The ideal way to do this is through WorldSkills and our APL apprentice programme. This not only aids the skills shortage, but bridges the gap between skills and education."
For more information, visit http://www.theskillsshow.com