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Interview: A student of horticulture in 2018

East Walk, leading up to the entrance of the new Teagasc College of Amenity Horticulture at the National Botanic Gardens. Photo: Peter Stears.

Mario O'Kelly, a Level 6 Advanced Horticulture student at the Teagasc College of Amentiy Horticulture spoke to us about the importance of meeting the horticulture trade at the college's open days and what it is like to study there.



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26 March 2018

Following the Teagasc Open Day at the National Botanic Gardens on March 8, we sat down with John Mulhern, Principal of the College of Amenity Horticulture located at the National Botanic Gardens, and Liam McMahon, Senior Horticultural Consultant at National Agrochemical Distributors, to discuss the importance of these open days both for the college and its students, as well as the trade itself.

To get the view of the students, we then sat down with Mario O’Kelly, a Level 6 Advanced Horticulture student – specialising in nursery stock production and garden centre operations at the College of Amenity Horticulture – to understand the importance of the Teagasc Open Days for him and what it means to study at the National Botanic Gardens.

What is the importance of having leading horticulture companies showcase at the Open Days?

“It’s vital. It’s a chance to network and interact with leaders in the horticulture industry and in terms of seeking full-time employment – it’s essential.

“The open day represents a very important symbiotic relationship between the college and the industry; a lot of people would possibly go on to do degrees while those who go on to look  for full-time work it’s vitally important to them to meet with the industry face-to-face.

“I have a hard copy CV with me and I’ll be talking to a few companies to get feedback, make contact, and as well as that there is an interconnection in the horticulture sector in Ireland – they might recommend me to someone that isn’t here today.”

O’Kelly went from attending the Open Days to organising them as this year he was one of 10 students of the leadership committee – tasked with organising the Open Days.

Altogether there were 12 companies attending the Teagasc Open Day on March 8, and the act of bringing into the college leading horticultural businesses has been on-going since 2015.

“I attended the open day in 2015 and in 2016 – the reason I didn’t go to the National Botanic Gardens for Level 5 was I felt my  computer skills weren’t up to scratch so I studied a Level 4 in North Strand and did a Level 5 in Killester.

“But I was quite fortunate as I did most of my work practising in Ardgillan Desmesne and that confirmed for me that I had a passion in horticulture.”

What is it like to work and study in the National Botanic Gardens?

“All you have to do is look around you, it can’t but inspire you. If you need to do any referencing or research, you have access to all manner of expertise up here and everything is readily available on-site.

“I feel quite privileged to be up here – its a great environment. The level of teaching and encouragement you receive as a student is second to none. It does take you out of your comfort zone, but it has been a real eye opener and been very constructive.

“Its a reality check, you’re being judged at the highest standard and that’s a real challenge, so if you have the right attitude and embrace that you can get on very well – studying here galvanises your confidence.” O’Kelly concluded.

What are your future plans?

“Full time employment with either Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, or the Office of Public Works (OPW) – once you start studying horticulture you realise the strands that are available; that is often a common misconception that people make, when you say ‘horticulture’, they naturally assume you’re just a gardener, but there are many aspects to it – so I hope I am in the right place.”

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