The Garden Centre Association (GCA) says its e-learning Garden Retail Online Workshops (GROW) modules on social distancing helped prepare member centres for re-opening after lockdown (2020).
The Social Distancing and Social Distancing for Catering courses were launched in early May and July, in record time, immediately after the announcements permitting centres and then restaurants to reopen.
Antony Snow, Instructional Designer for GROW at the GCA, said: “Looking back on what has been a year full of uncertainty, we are incredibly proud of the hard work and long hours that were put into launching our Social Distancing and Social Distancing for Catering modules for staff at our member garden centres.
“The two e-learning courses focused on the considerations involved to ensure that social distancing was maintained and therefore a safe environment was created for employees and customers.
“When garden centres across the country closed, no-one imagined how different things would be when they re-opened, so to put together modules on something that was unprecedented was a huge feat, but one that allowed staff to train and prepare for social distancing before the reopening of centres and in the immediate weeks afterwards.
“Although we are now all familiar with social distancing and our member garden centres have done us extremely proud with all the measures they have put into place, the modules still serve as a useful refresher tool that staff can refer back to periodically, to eliminate ‘Covid fatigue’.
“The traditionally quieter period in January/February is an ideal time for garden centres, during the start of the year, to ensure staff are refreshed on these topics or new staff are given the training they need and that those away from the business on furlough can keep up-to-date too. We regularly update our modules to meet with new guidelines as needed as well.”
As well as being available exclusively to GCA member garden centres, the GROW facility is now also available to Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) garden centre members too.
Iain Wylie, GCA Chief Executive, said: “We launched the two modules in record time (with a lot of hard work, long hours and midnight oil!) before centres reopened for retail and catering, respectively, to allow staff to train/prepare for social distancing before reopening and in the immediate weeks afterwards.
“Of course, they serve as a useful tool to use periodically now, as a reminder (particularly if, as seen in the media, we (the nation) are seeing ‘Covid fatigue’ with following social distancing rules).”
What started as an initial idea, thought up during a strategy meeting of the GCA’s executive committee, to bring education and training to individuals employed in the garden centre industry, is now a self-funding facility with 98 modules and more than 13,000 users across the country.
The 98 modules include a wide range of topics that cover horticulture, customer service, health and safety, food safety and regulated sales.
The accredited health and safety and food safety topics are categorised as either level one or two.
The horticultural units available have been written by members of the GCA and other modules such as Health and Safety and Food Hygiene have been sourced from leading trainers in those subjects. The Customer Service modules were written by specialists and the content applied specifically to a garden centre environment.
“Thanks to using the GROW e-learning facility, garden centre staff can improve their knowledge, gain confidence and expertise and improve the quality of the customer’s experience at their garden centre.
“Users can be assured that they are always receiving the correct, practical and unbiased advice, solutions to problems and help with gardening projects.
“It is the most cost-effective way of delivering training to everyone employed within your garden centre.
“Following on from GROW’s success in 2020, we will be launching a variety of new modules in 2021. A major addition will be a series of modules on Environmental Issues/The Environment, of which greener gardening will be a part of. These are subjects we have always wanted to cover in more detail and after consideration, it was felt that we could do this via two or three separate courses, so users can look out for these next year. They will be a major addition to GROW in 2021 and beyond.
“Other new modules include poisonous plants, which provides learners with an overview of which commonly sold plants commonly, aren’t necessarily fatal, but pose a risk if ingested or if a person or pet comes into contact with them and a till security module will provide an overview of the best practises for checkout staff to follow to ensure that they don’t become the victim of fraud.
“We are also looking to improve our current manual handling training, which covers the basic principles, but we felt could be improved to be more relevant for lifting and handling tasks in a garden centre environment specifically. We also hope to explore topics including equality and diversity.”
If garden centres are interested in signing up to GROW they can enquire online at www.gca.org.uk or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to arrange an on-site demonstration or guest access.