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Developing the next generation of professional horticulturalists

Students at the Teagasc campus in Ashtown, Dublin 15.

Zack Meehan and Bartek Wojcik are two students who are studying for their degree in Horticulture in the Teagasc College National Botanic Gardens, we had a chat with them ahead of the Teagasc College of Horticulture's next open day, set for March 7.



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12 February 2019

Zack Meehan and Bartek Wojcik are part of a first year class of 18 students taking the Bachelor of Science Level 7 in Horticulture course, which is run by Waterford Institute of Technology in conjunction with Teagasc National Botanic Gardens.

The degree is a three year degree, comprising of six semesters — one of which is a full work experience semester which can be conducted in Ireland or abroad. The degree is based entirely in the Teagasc College which is bi-located between the National Botanic Gardens campus and Ashtown campus.

Qualified students from this course end up in a wide variety of careers in the horticulture sector from landscaping to nursery; turfgrass to food production.

The next Teagasc College careers event is on Thursday, March 7, from 12pm to 3pm, in the Teagasc education building in the National Botanic Gardens. There will be up to 20 of the top horticultural companies in the sector attending the event who are actively recruiting.

It will be a great opportunity for current and intending students to meet with potential employers and discuss job opportunities, and what skill sets are required within the sector.

The following conversation was held recently with Meehan and Wojcik, to see how they are getting on.

Zack Meehan, Year 1, BSc Level 7 in Horticulture

How is your course going?

My course is going well and I have learnt a good bit since starting the course. Once a week I take part in work experience in Teagasc, Ashtown. This also involves filling out a diary to go along with this experience. Our course is divided between The National Botanic Gardens and Teagasc Ashtown.

How many subjects are you undertaking this year?

I am currently doing six subjects this semester. These subjects include plant knowledge, plant propagation, hort mechanisation, hort Building Construction, hort skills training and chemistry for land scientists. Exams are completed at the end of each semester and you move onto new subjects in the next semester. Each semester is 12 weeks of teaching so the time is very short.

What is your favourite of these subjects?

I would have to say hort building construction.

What would you say are the main points you are learning in horticulture?

I find that the course is giving me a horticultural knowledge which will help me to improve my skills and give me the tools to help build and progress my family business.

What is your background in Horticulture?

My background in horticulture is linked to previous generation being involved in horticulture. My great great grand-father had a nursery in Kimmage called Irish Nurseries. My grandfather would have worked with the Queen on her gardens and at present I work alongside my father in his tree surgeons business when not at college.

If you were to recommend the course what would you say?

The Level 7 course is full on but you learn so much from it.

Did you get any career guidance when you were at School on Horticultural course?

I got some guidance from my career guidance teacher at St Wilsons School, Mullingar. However knowing that I wanted to work in horticulture as part of my family business gave me a direction to follow.

Bartek Wojcik, Year 1, BSc Level 7 in Horticulture

Why are you doing the course?

I was looking to do a course to help me gain knowledge on plants. I saw that this course was in the National Botanic Gardens where you are surrounded by plants all the time. This would give me a good knowledge base which will help me to work in the field of landscape architecture. When this course is finished I plan to hopefully go to UCD or to stick with landscape design within this course.

What draws you to becoming a landscape designer?

I like to work outdoors where I get to work on developing and maintaining gardens. I feel that this type of work is very rewarding when you get to see the outcome of developing a new garden.

Today you are on section which is every Wednesday. What skills or task do you feel are particularly good?

We work on a broad range of skills and tasks from planting trees to working and taking care of machinery. When I go into my second year of work placement I will have a head start because I will know how the machines work. Therefore I won’t need that much assistance and perhaps a company will take me on.

If you were to sell this course to a young person coming in, in terms of the benefits, what would you say?

I would say it’s a full-on course but there is a lot you will take-in, even in the first semester. I have learnt a lot having no background knowledge in horticulture.

Where did you find an interest in doing horticulture?

I became interested in horticulture when I was in school at St Declan’s College, Cabra.

Was there an interest in the school in horticulture?

The school has a small garden which is maintained. Our principal actually told me that the National Botanic Gardens did courses in horticulture. After looking into it I put it on my CAO application straight away after it.

The next open day at the Teagasc College of Horticulture in the National Botanic Gardens will be on Thursday, March 7.

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