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John O'Conner Grounds Maintenance

John O’Conner believe the ‘grow your own’ approach really benefits the business. We strive to encourage diversity and inclusion in the workforce and are committed to developing and training future managers from the ground up.

Unlike other major local authority grounds maintenance suppliers, John O’Conner is privately owned; giving us the freedom to make long term decisions in the best interests of our business, our staff and our clients because we do not have to answer to external shareholders.

Apprenticeships for John O’Conner is our strategic objective for attracting and retaining young people and developing them to become future managers. Launched in 2011, our scheme provided an employment entry point for young people from our well-established trainee programmes including the government’s Back to Work and Work Experience Schemes and our partnerships with organisations working with disabled people.

An Apprenticeship is an ideal way to begin a career in horticulture and open space management. As an Amenity Horticulture Apprentice, you will work on the contract and get paid while you complete your education with one of our chosen learning providers. The programme is run in conjunction with our chosen learning provider Capel Manor College, where Apprentices will undertake an Intermediate (Level 2) or Supervisor (Level 3) Apprenticeship in Amenity Horticulture.

Why Work With Us

  • Above national wage salary during your first year
  • Hands on essential experience to help you develop your career in horticulture
  • A nationally recognised industry qualification within two years
  • Opportunity to attend national workshops with Royal Parks Guild to experience expert
  • Prospect for full time employment with John O’Conner after apprenticeship completion

An Introduction to John O'Conner Grounds Maintenance


James Nicoll

John Nicolls, John O'ConnorSince joining the business as a Site Operative, James discussed his career and job aspirations which were fed into his Professional Development Plan. This included completing his Level 3 Diploma apprenticeship which took place in 2013, and then completing his Advanced Level in Horticulture in 2018. Having successfully completed both apprenticeships, James has been promoted three times, and now fulfils the position of Contract Manager. In addition, James acts as a mentor, providing advice and guidance to other apprentices to successfully help them pass their programme. He organises training days and visits each apprentice on-site to see how they’re progressing. (Picture, James with Group Captain Steve Dharamraj, Commandant Royal Air Force Central Training School.)

Owen Snuggs, John O'Connor

Owen Snuggs

Owen Snuggs joined John O’Conner in October 2016 on the SOHA Housing contract and started working towards his Level 2 Apprenticeship in Horticulture, which he successfully completed in 2017. Owen has benefited by being rotated within the team which has helped develop his horticulture skills as well as his confidence. At the end of 2018, Owen completed his Level 3 Apprenticeship in Horticulture and has also passed his PA1/PA6 NPTC in Pesticide & Pest Control Certificate.

The apprenticeship has been a great opportunity that I have loved. I have very much enjoyed learning all the new skills as well as all of the training I have received from John O’Conner. My time at the company has been great so far and I would love to continue it in the future.

Owen Snuggs 

Apprentice, SOHA Housing John O’Conner (Grounds Maintenance) Ltd

Apprenticeships and Work Experience Programmes

If you work well as part of a team, are committed to learning and have ambitions with a keen interest in horticulture then our apprenticeship scheme may well be what you are looking for.

You will be placed on a 18-24-month Amenity Horticulture Apprenticeships based at one of our Contracts in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

You will be located at one of our depots and on four day a week be assigned duties working alongside experienced operatives and supervisors learning all aspects of grounds maintenance.  During term time you will attend Capel Manor College one day per week. Training involves all aspects of plant maintenance, cultivation and landscape development. You will also learn about pest control through chemical, biological and cultural methods, operation and maintenance of a wide range of machinery, and soil science.

We offer two apprenticeship schemes:

Intermediate (Level 2)

This course will develop the skills required to work in the gardening and landscaping industry, as well as building a foundation of specialist horticultural knowledge to take forward into further education and training for progression. Topics covered will include:

  • Plant naming, identification, selection and science
  • Establishment and maintenance of plants outdoors
  • Propagation techniques
  • Hard landscaping tasks
  • Design of garden areas
  • Care, maintenance and use of tools and machinery
  • Horticulture business skills
  • Health and safety for the land-based industries.

Advanced (Level 3)

This course will provide a great opportunity for you to further build your practical horticulture skills, develop your theoretical knowledge and gain confidence to progress into supervisory and management roles in the industry. Topics covered will include:

  • Industry understanding
  • Business communication
  • Customer care
  • Supervision
  • Health and safety for supervisors
  • Environmental protection
  • Plant growth and development
  • Supervise use of tools, equipment and machinery.


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