Gardening is loved and loathed by people in equal measure – which is why qualified landscapers are always in hot demand.
“There’s always lots of work around because many people don’t like to get out in their garden and get dirty,” explains Tom Feeney. “I don’t mind it at all which is why I love the landscaping industry.”
The 21 year-old has worked for Auckland firm Humphrey’s Landscaping for the past two years and is currently completing his apprenticeship by doing on-the-job training and study through Primary ITO.
“Before I started here I had a hands-on job at a civil construction firm, cleaning up after trucks in their yard. That’s where I realised I wanted to work outside with my hands. I thought landscaping sounded like an interesting career, so I started helping Mum in the garden at home, just to see what I thought.”
When Tom approached Humphrey’s Landscaping to ask if any work was available, he was hired on the spot.
“I think my boss liked my positivity. I explained the reason I wanted the job – the fact I wanted to be hands-on, loved working outdoors and didn’t mind working outside in winter or in the rain. I think he was happy to see someone who was keen and interested in the job, so he called me 10 minutes after my interview to ask how soon I could start.”
Tom initially joined the firm’s maintenance team and began trimming hedges and pulling weeds. “I quickly discovered that was the part of landscaping that I didn’t enjoy, so I switched to their construction team instead.
“Now I build things like planter boxes, fences, timber edges, decks, block walls and do all the preparation work for concrete driveways, and my love of landscaping has really developed. Rather than maintain gardens that already exist, I enjoy seeing something being built from scratch and working on a project through from start to finish.”
While working day-to-day, Tom is also studying with Primary ITO. He has completed his Level 2 papers and is on track to finish his apprenticeship next year and eventually attain his Level 4 Advanced Landscaping Certificate.
“It’s definitely a bit different to high school where you’re in the classroom and have a teacher with you all the time. With Primary ITO you learn by yourself by completing practical assignments and doing bookwork as you go. You take pictures as evidence and you apply those new skills and knowledge to your daily work.”
Tom’s employer has hosted several workshops in the firm’s yard after hours where a Primary ITO trainer has taught topics such as plant identification, timberwork, planting advice, and how to deal with weeds.
“Because I’m on the construction side of our business, my plant knowledge could definitely be improved, and I don’t deal with weeds very often – that’s more on the maintenance side. So I find that a bit hard.
“The ITO trainers are lovely and they’re always willing to help out, but you do need to keep on top of your bookwork and motivate yourself to complete the course. My advice to anyone considering a similar path is to make sure you can study on your own because you won’t be given all the answers necessarily. You have to work hard.”
Once qualified, Tom’s keen to continue working at Humphrey’s Landscaping and perhaps step up to a foreman role in future.
“If you’re an outdoors sort of person and like a physical job, then I’d hugely recommend landscaping. You get a decent workout every day and you learn a lot about how to make an outside area look great.”
In the meantime, Tom’s family garden is definitely benefitting from his newfound skills – much to his mum’s delight. “She’s pretty happy I can help out in the garden at home and do a bit of construction now too.”