Sam studied Uniformed Public services at college, with a view to joining the Police when he left. However, at just 18, he was told he’d need more life experience before he would be considered. Looking around for ways to get that experience, he found an apprenticeship here at Hambrooks. In the ten years since then, Sam has realised that perhaps this was what he was meant to do all along. He tells us his story.
“Initially I felt a bit lost when my ‘plan A’ didn’t happen but I’d heard about apprenticeships and thought one of those would suit me instead. I wanted to find a career I could learn in, so that mixture of working and learning felt right. I had heard of Hambrooks – a friend’s Dad worked there – and I knew they’d been around a while, so they seemed like a good company to consider.
“I joined their Garden Maintenance team and started on a Level 2 Horticulture Apprenticeship through Sparsholt College, the specialist agricultural college near here. I really enjoyed working in the outdoors and maintenance was a great way to learn from the other guys in the team. After about six months, they needed people in the Hambrooks Landscaping team, so I shifted to building gardens, rather than maintaining them. Throughout my apprenticeship, it was great to be able to see what I was learning about at college being applied day-to-day in my job.
“Hambrooks kept me on when I completed the apprenticeship and I worked as an improver alongside my colleague Wayne. We got to work on all sorts of gardens, from smaller installs, like adding a pond, to whole gardens, worth thousands of pounds. After a couple of years, when I was about 23, I was promoted to team leader, so I was leading on some of those projects myself.
“With all my hands-on experience, I was learning a lot about what makes a ‘good’ garden, about how the hard landscaping (like patios) works around the soft landscaping (the plants), and I really enjoyed seeing the transformation that we could make to people’s lives. So when an opportunity came to transfer to the garden design team, I didn’t hesitate! I started as a designer/estimator on a part-time basis, as we still needed people on the building side too, but it became a full-time role after about a year.
“Now, my typical week is a great mixture of tasks. Mondays to Thursdays, I will work on new designs, pulling together the plans and cost estimates, and I will often go out to see my designs that are being built. I love that I am there for our customers right through the process, from the initial discussions about what they want to seeing the job finished. (I haven’t had anyone burst into tears like they do on those TV garden makeover shows but I have had people give me a hug, they’ve been so pleased!). Fridays is the day that I will go out to visit potential new customers, with the business owner Norman, to talk about what they want.
“My apprenticeship was definitely a brilliant grounding for being a designer as I think it helps me design better, knowing how a garden will be built. With support from my colleagues, I learnt how to use Keyscape and CAD design, so we can produce plans on computer. I have also had other learning opportunities here, from going on a course to learn about wildflower turf to getting my 7½ tonne lorry driving licence! We are recruiting apprentices at the moment so I love being the proof to them of what can be achieved: I’m now a manager, winning jobs for the business worth £90k or more.
“For anyone considering a career in this kind of job, I would say go for it. For me, the opportunity to meet so many people is probably what I’ve enjoyed the most, from colleagues to customers to suppliers at some of the big trade shows. It can also be a very outdoors job of course but, for every wet day, there is a lovely sunny one to make up for it! You’ll also learn lots of practical skills that can be really useful in life. I think gardening is helping to give back and make the world a greener place.”
Sam’s interview was also published in careers magazine “Make the Future Yours” in the summer of 2022.
Read more about what Sam has been up to at Hambrooks here:
Supporting local charity Open Sight and getting to meet a very special visitor
Supporting our local Coastguard station
Learning about wildflower turf
Working on a new build house backgarden makeover