A Worcestershire training academy has seen 200 students take part in more than 50 landscaping and horticultural courses in its first year.

TASK Academy, based in Birlingham near Pershore, was established to help tackle the current skills shortage in the UK’s horticultural sector.

The academy is the brainchild of award-winning landscaper Rupert Keys, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry, having run his own business Keyscape Design and Construction.

In recent years, Rupert has shared his knowledge and expertise to help address the industry’s skills gap by providing practical landscaping courses.

Since its launch in September 2022, the TASK team has doubled in size and launched a broad curriculum of one to three day courses for students.

The academy has also established key partnerships with 10 training and 25 industry partners.

TASK will also have accreditation from LANTRA for the second-year running, a leading provider of training, qualifications and career guidance for land-based industries across the UK and Ireland.

TASK’s selection of LANTRA accredited courses achieved an impressive 99 per cent pass rate over the year and the feedback from students has been hugely positive.

Another target achieved by TASK in their first year was the introduction of a series of land-based courses for members of the public who want to get hands-on and improve their skills or just try something completely different.

The one-day courses, which are held at TASK’s five-acre small holding overlooking Bredon Hill include dry stone walling, garden planting design, paving and even bricklaying.

Mr Keys, said: “I had a long-held ambition to set up a Centre of Excellence in the heart of England to provide high-quality training for industry professionals.

"Having worked in the industry most of my life I have witnessed the lack of training available to professionals and I felt empowered to do something to make a positive change.”

He continued: “It’s been a hugely busy year, but the growth and success of TASK has exceeded our expectations and the support and encouragement we have received from the industry has really helped put TASK on the horticultural map.

"We are really excited about building on this success and to continue to develop and enhance our offering to students over the next year.”

TASK held a birthday party at the academy earlier this autumn as a thank you to industry partners, trainers, students, friends and family for their passion, enthusiasm, support and commitment.

The celebration also saw TASK present their first Student of The Year Award, which was supported by Makita and Ox Tools.

The 2023 winner was Lucy Chapman from Surrey.