Thursday, March 24, 2016 - 12:30

The managing director of the Eden Project and one of its team of horticulture apprentices swapped jobs today (Thursday March 24) as part of a national programme to develop apprentices' skills.

Gordon Seabright spent the morning in a cherry picker helping to cut down overhanging branches in the Rainforest Biome while apprentice Jake Hawke moved around the offices for calls and meetings with Eden’s Chair Judith Donovan, the education team and other managers.

The swap was staged as part of the Brathay Apprentice Challenge and nine Eden apprentices -  a mixture of first and second years -  are competing in this year's competition.

After swapping his usual gardening gear for a jacket and tie, Jake said: “It’s a real eye opener to have the opportunity to do a job swap with Gordon. I’ve had a very busy morning tasting life as an executive and the demands that go with it.

“This is a great way to promote the Brathay Apprentice Challenge and apprenticeships generally. I’ve had a lot of opportunities in the 18 months I’ve been at Eden but this has to be one of the most exciting experiences so far.”

Gordon said: “Jake’s been holding the fort well while I was 70 feet up sawing branches and getting covered in ants and sweat. It’s been good to escape the office and I’ve enjoyed my morning with the Green Team.

“This is more than just a bit of fun. Eden apprentices are the leaders of tomorrow. They are learning skills that will equip them to do all sorts of jobs. There are no limits to what they can achieve and today is a chance to share some experiences. I’m proud that Eden is offering so many opportunities to our rising stars.”

Other job swaps between Eden executives and apprentices are due to take place before the end of April.

The Brathay Apprentice Challenge is the search for the apprentice team of the year, supported by the National Apprenticeship Service.

The challenges are designed to ensure that competing teams demonstrate their teambuilding, leadership, logistical and communications abilities. Apprentices also benefit by becoming more confident, more aware of their own capabilities and ultimately more employable.

Now in its fifth year, this year’s challenge sees more than 80 teams of nine apprentices undertaking a series of exciting and interactive work-related tasks to develop new skills.

They will be undertaking a community project, engaging with schools and work colleagues about apprenticeships and promoting themselves through the use of the media in order to gain points for their regional portfolio.

The activities will also showcase the Eden Project by engaging with young people and businesses to promote the benefits of apprenticeships.

Other employers that have entered include HSBC, Microsoft UK and the Magna Science Adventure Centre, all hoping to be crowned the apprentice team of the year 2016.

The regional heats portfolio is to be submitted on April 29 and the apprentices will need to work together to gain as many points as possible. If they succeed in the regional heats they will go through to the finals in the Lake District from June 13 - 16 to do a series of logistical and teambuilding challenges.

Jed Langdon, Eden’s Learning and Development Specialist, said: “We are very excited to have our apprentices taking part in the challenge. This is a great opportunity for them to try something new and to demonstrate their skills, while representing the Eden Project.

"The challenges they will face will not be easy but they are a hugely talented bunch and we wish them the best of luck with the regional heats and would love to see them progress to the finals.”