MY name is Jacob Mercer and I am from Newtownabbey. I graduated from CAFRE Greenmount campus in June 2022 with a Level 2 Diploma in Practical Horticultural Skills.
When I completed my GCSEs at Belfast High School, I had no direct links to horticulture, in fact my qualifications were in Spanish, Food Technology, Digital Technology and Leisure and Tourism.
I had the opportunity to spend my 2020 and 2021 summer holidays working as an apprentice tree surgeon in my uncle’s business, Ben Mercer Tree Services. I enjoyed working outdoors. I got to experience using a chipper to mulch tree branches and carried out general garden maintenance activities. This is what fired my enthusiasm to follow a career in horticulture.
I applied for the Level 2 Diploma in Practical Horticultural Skills at CAFRE. The course offers a good mix of classroom and practical work covering a broad range of horticulture skills. Studying horticulture offers outdoor learning and freedom from a traditional classroom setting.
The teaching facilities and campus grounds at Greenmount are excellent for learning. I have developed key practical skills that every horticulturist needs.
The extensive grounds were our outdoor classroom, along with the glasshouses and other production facilities. I learned to cut and repair lawns, sow seeds, take cuttings, plant bedding schemes, maintain hedges and even learned the Latin names for plants.
CAFRE provides an excellent practical learning resource enabling students to ‘learn by doing’. I also gained additional qualifications, including Manual Handling Awareness and PA1 – Safe Use of Pesticides; great additions to my CV.
I am currently spending the summer working on the grounds at Greenmount in Antrim, carrying out horticulture activities, from planting, weeding, edging beds, pruning and grasscutting.
I will be returning to CAFRE in September to commence study on the full-time Level 3 Advanced Technical Extended Diploma Horticulture course.
My intention isn’t to stop there! My longer term goal is to progress on to the Foundation Degree course. The college offers great opportunities for school leavers to get outdoors and gain a qualification in a career that can keep on growing.
If you are considering a career in horticulture, I would recommend studying at CAFRE. The courses available at every level will equip you with practical and employability skills developed using the superb on campus facilities. Antrim is easy to access, I travel by train and catch the connecting bus from the station to the college.
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