Apprentice George Gregoriou is the newest member of the gardening team at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the independent charity that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage sites in Stratford-upon-Avon, and promotes the enjoyment and understanding of his works, life and times all over the world.
Aged 48, he is studying a Level 2 Horticulture and Landscape Operative Apprenticeship through Pershore College, which is part of the Warwickshire College Group. It is the latest stage of a varied career that has seen George serve in the military, and work in retail, and the heritage sector.
George, who was born at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, while his father was on active service there, also has a degree in Business Studies from Nottingham University and a Master of Arts in Medieval Politics and Punishment through the Open University.
In March 2017, he joined the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust as a guide in Shakespeare’s Birthplace before recently transferring to the gardening team on an apprenticeship.
George added, “For me it was a radical career change, but having worked as a guide, I wanted to see history from a different view, and when the apprenticeship came up I saw it as an opportunity, not to be just a gardener, but to be an historical gardener.
“My apprenticeship gives me the perfect combination of academic learning and learning on the job. In the classroom we’re learning about plant science and plant technology; they’re teaching us about different types of cultivars (plant varieties produced by selective breeding); new ways of gardening, such as planting cycles and moving away from using harsh chemicals because of the environmental concerns people have. We’re also learning business skills to use if we want to work for ourselves. So as well as future-proofing me, I’m bringing new ideas from the classroom to the garden.”
According to figures published this month* [see note below] ahead of National Apprenticeship Week (4 to 8 March), the highest number of new apprentices in 2017/18 were aged under 19. In George’s age group (45-59) there has been a 45 per cent drop in new starters.
George said, “Most people associate apprenticeships with being for school or college leavers. But age shouldn’t be a barrier. The idea that you are too old for something is self–inflicted. Why not take the chance, what have you got to lose? You train for two years and at the end of it you can have a brand new career.”
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust employs 280 staff and has 165 active volunteers. George is one of five apprentices currently in the Trust’s workforce, with two in retail, one in the IT department, and another in the HR department.
In 2017 the Trust signed up to The 5% Club, whose members aspire to have 5% of their workforce on apprenticeships or graduate training schemes within five years, while 2019 is the fourth year that the Trust has featured in the Sunday Times 100 Best Not-for-Profit Organisations to Work For.
Anne Doughty, HR manager at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said: “The Trust is committed to nurturing talent in all areas of the organisation, and apprenticeships play a key role. We have had 17 across all areas of our operations since recruiting our first back in 2010, all of whom have made fantastic contributions in helping us to tell the story of William Shakespeare’s works, life and times.”
All apprenticeships and other job vacancies are advertised at jobs.shakespeare.org.uk