Recently appointed parks manager at Halton Borough Council, Paul Boardman rose through the ranks having first joined the authority as a gardening apprentice. Paul is no stranger to success after being named APSE Young Horticulture Apprentice of The Year in 2008. We interviewed Paul about his achievement, and what it says about the value of local authority apprenticeship schemes.
Q: Hi Paul, first of all we would like to say congratulations on your success. The first thing we want to ask is what made you consider an apprenticeship with Halton Council?
In my final years of high school I had every intention of continuing with education and attending university, and signed up to sixth form college to study geography, biology, and business. During my time at sixth form college, however, I became interested in other possible paths to take: I was undecided, as many young people are, on what I wanted to pursue a career in. I had always been interested in the outdoors, and many of my interests revolved around being outside and enjoying the open spaces around us, and this is still the case today. I found myself spending most of my college free periods within the nearby Victoria Park as I would go there for a quiet coffee to get away from the chaos of the common room. I quickly started to take notice of the work which went in to maintaining these vital community assets and started to look for courses within horticulture. I was in my final year of college when I saw a job posting which stated that Halton Borough Council were looking for apprentices within what was the Landscape Services Division, the timing couldn’t have been any better for me and my interest was piqued straight away. I attended the open day and was fortunate enough to be selected for interview before being offered a position in Victoria Park.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the apprenticeship and why?
Managing the expectations of others could be quite challenging, and there were occasions where someone would need reminding of our limited knowledge and skills; there were times when we were viewed as “just another pair of hands” by some colleagues rather than somebody who required training and guidance. Indeed, we were employed to do a job (and I was certainly happy to do my part), but it took some compromise and communication from both myself and my team in order for us to balance the needs of the workforce with my own interest in working towards my qualifications. I’ll be forever grateful for the patience and encouragement afforded to me during the course of my apprenticeship.
Q: What was the most rewarding part of the apprenticeship and why?
The most rewarding part of my apprenticeship was working towards something which made a real difference in the local community; working within the parks team meant that I was in contact with the users of the service on a daily basis and those encounters were overwhelmingly positive. We would often get compliments on the work we were doing around the park, and I always enjoyed the satisfaction that brought. I’ve used parks and open spaces for recreation throughout my life, and to see first-hand that my work being appreciated by the residents and visitors of the Borough was fantastic. I must also mention the APSE Apprentice Awards in 2008 where I won the award for Horticultural Apprentice of the Year. It was an especially proud moment to have my achievements and passion for work within my local area recognised on a national scale.
Q: What advice would you give to people just embarking on an apprenticeship?
I’ve learned a lot of lessons throughout my career, from being an apprentice through to eventually managing our current crop of apprentices. I’ve always been curious of how things worked and taken advantage of the wealth of knowledge around me. I’ve asked questions and listened to others and taken their experiences on board which has provided me with a good base for my working life. There’s a wealth of experience within local government which apprentices can use to their advantage, and the passing down of that understanding will go in hand with the new ideas that the younger generations can bring. Apprentices play an important part in succession planning and filling gaps in the future. My own experiences have shown that you can build a great career from an apprenticeship if you put the work in.
Q: Any other comments, maybe in relation to your new role - aims and future projects?
As ever, it is an interesting time to be in local government! We have some great challenges on the horizon with climate change affecting our industry this will involve building resilient planting stock for the future through sensible species selection. People are also taking a greater interest in their local area during the current COVID-19 crisis which is putting immediate pressure on our service areas; quality parks will be essential to societies recovery following the impact of the coronavirus, as people continue to explore what is on their doorstep. It is also a personal ambition to improve our environment through the small changes we can all make. One key area I believe our industry can set an example in being sustainable is through the reduction in single use plastics from seasonal bedding and litter picking operations. I hope that Halton’s Parks Section can play its part of a much bigger picture in that regard through using more environmentally friendly practices.
Q: Thank you for your time Paul. we wish you every success in your new role! •
The APSE local authority apprentice and trainee awards scheme is open to candidates from all stages of training and have been running successfully for close to two decades throughout the UK. The aim of the awards is not only to give recognition to our future tradespersons, but also to the councils themselves who continue to invest in the workforce of the future and provide first-class training and employment initiatives via modern apprenticeship and trainee schemes.
Unfortunately, due to the current situation and uncertainty around the use of event venues for evening functions, APSE will not be running the apprentice awards in 2020. All nominated applicants will be eligible to apply in 2021. To download our Apprentice Awards Brochure click here.