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CFINE Community Growing Employability Skills - Grow & Learn in Nature

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

As May 2022 drew to a close, the first graduates of the CFINE Community Growing Employability Skills course completed the pilot programme - a course following the ‘Grow & Learn in Nature’ materials from the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society.

Participants on the course were referred, either through an organisation or by themselves, in order to build confidence, increase general employability skills, and learn more about gardening. Participants were required to take part in 30 hours of course activity over a period of 10 weeks and undertake one additional session volunteering in one of Aberdeen’s various community gardens.

The Grove Nursery in Hazelhead facilitated the course by kindly giving access to one of their polytunnels for seated lessons, and to one of their greenhouses for planting seeds and growing seedlings. A lot of the outdoor activity took place at the new TAMS market garden at Grove Nursery. The market garden aims to support the operation of The Allotment Market Stall (TAMS), an organisation who takes the extra grown produce from local allotment holders and sells the healthy produce at stalls throughout the summer, with proceeds going back to allotments.


Photo: beginning of pond build. L-R: Greg Welsh, course tutor; course participants Bradley Fraser, Arkan De Lomas, Abdulfatah Al Jadaa, Pat King.


This was the first time this course had run, with tutor Greg Welsh at the helm, and help from Support for Learning volunteer and MLE student in Rural Surveying and Rural Property Management, Jvan Yazdani.



Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

The group undertook a range or projects including building a pond, laying paths, building a bug hotel, and growing flowers, herbs and veggies.

Excitement was had when Jvan brought in a nifty set up – a kite with a camera strapped onto it, for the purposes of aerial photography! Some of the participants joined Jvan in attempts to fly the kite above the market garden in order to capture a bird’s eye view of the ponds and paths they had built together. The first attempt was abandoned due to low-winds, but the week after that the kite was out again and this time success was had!


Photo: pond and paths from above



A New Job

This course was designed for people at various levels, including those who will use this as a stepping stone on a route into employment. There is no expectation that all participants will be ready for employment immediately after completion of this course - some are ready for routes into further support services, further courses, or maintaining the routine they’ve established by regular ongoing volunteering at community gardens. However, we were delighted when one of our participants attributed the course to re-entering employment.

Her feedback showed that her confidence in gaining employment increased hugely during the course, from feeling unconfident and unready, to gaining the confidence to start work.


She said -

“I did gain employment through attending the course. I mentioned attending the course on my cover letter and interview so I think the course did improve my employability chances.”


When asked what she had gained from the course she answered -

“Lots! Confidence in gardening, and the confidence to apply for related jobs. New connections. Routine.”



A Bench, A Legacy

One of the participants took the initiative to build a bench at home, made from recycled materials, and wished to donate it to the TAMS growing space, to be located beside the pond that he helped to build.

This participant reported that his favourite part of the course was “Feeling that my skills came in handy when asked to do things.” He learnt that “No matter where we come from, we can all get on and get things done.” And he reported an increase in feeling productive / useful, being more interested in new things, and an increase in physical activity after the course.


Photo: Wildlife pond in progress



A visit

One sunny afternoon while the group was busy in the TAMS garden, the group were joined by CFINE Development Manager, Sam Leyes, and CFINE Sustainable Food Coordinator and GCGF coordinator, Martin Carle, who came to take a peek and see the progress of the first growing skills for employability course participants.


The reaction was extremely positive, with Martin saying -

“It was brilliant to be able to see the progress made by the first cohort of the growing skills for employability course, and to see the TAMS (The Allotment Market Stall) no-dig growing space really coming into its own! It was really inspiring to see how much progress was made, demonstrating the course participants’ work on the space.”


Sam was equally positive, saying -

“The bug hotel was most definitely my favourite area of the tour. You have done a wonderful job pulling this piece of work together and to see it in action was very special. A huge well done to you!”

L-R: Martin Carle, CFINE Sustainable Food Coordinator; Abby Thomson, course participant; Rebecca Dunn, CFINE Community Growing Development Worker; Dace Ersta, course participant.

Foreground: A Bug Hotel built by the course participants.



Grow and Learn in Natutre – Group Two

The second cohort have recently started their course under the tutelage of John Sergison of Earth and Worms, with help from Support for Learning volunteer, Deborah Oduro, an MSc student in Sustainability Transitions. The group have already planted a variety of trees at the TAMS market garden, including apple and other fruit trees. Much of their course activity is taking place at the Earth & Worms community garden, where they have built their own pond, have welcomed guest speakers on compost and bees, planted wildflowers and started to build bug hotels.



Community Growing

Course participants have benefited from the community gardens who have hosted them for volunteering sessions. These gardens include Springhill Community Garden, and the Garden Herbs garden & allotment. If you are interested in volunteering with any of these groups, visit their web pages, or see a full list and contact details of community gardens in Aberdeen by visiting the Aberdeen Food Growing Map here.

Photo: Watering seedlings in the polytunnel


The CFINE Community Growing Employability Skills course is coordinated by CFINE Community Growing projects. For more information on what else we do and upcoming activities, visit the CFINE Community Growing blog and website, and join the Keep Growing Aberdeen Facebook group.

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