Ever wondered what it’s like to set the scene for a large-scale, high-profile event in a huge venue… Say, for example, a glamorous awards ceremony where highly skilled professionals from different trades are rewarded for excellence in their various fields?
Well a team of apprentice florists, under the guidance of KEITS training providers, did just that at the end of last year as their floral arrangements took centre stage at the National Apprenticeship Awards. The glitzy ceremony took place at the gigantic LG Arena in Birmingham where I visited KEITS tutors Mel Webb and Karen Armstrong and a group of their apprentice florists during the set-up.
Michelle Marklow (or Shellie for short), owner of Shellie’s Flowers in Birmingham, was busy prepping arrangements as I arrived, accompanied by staff members Jodie Beet and Lucy Strafford. Jodie was completing her Level Three diploma and Lucy was working on her Level Two whilst Shellie herself was training as an assessor. They were accompanied by Abigail Brotheridge from Joanne’s Florist, Kingstanding, who was also working on her Level Two diploma.
Setting a Sparkling Scene
The team were carting trolley-loads of pre-made table arrangements to each guest table, adding finishing touches and ensuring each was perfectly prepared and placed on its mirrored base. They finalised each one with a tag stating who had designed the arrangement – a special touch that seemed especially fitting for the National Apprenticeship Awards, which recognises and rewards skilled learners in all trades.
Apprentice florists based in both Kent and Cambridge also took part. They helped to make the 80(!) table arrangements, and even travelled up to Birmingham to cram into Shellie’s shop to create the designs in advance so that the flowers didn’t have too far to travel.
As well as the 80 table arrangements, the team also supplied some super-sized designs to wow guests at the drinks reception. Jodie and Lucy created two eye-grabbing vase arrangements filled with luxurious black feathers and brightly coloured blooms.
Jodie, with aid from the Kent team, put in tons of time and thought into drawing up the perfect designs for the ceremony, creating a fantastic portfolio for her Level Three diploma. The table arrangements were brilliant little splashes of colour – tall, linear creations of orange gerberas, bright green anthuriums, white and orange roses, yellow germini, black sticks and sisal. The bright blooms looked fab set against the dark colours of the arena and table settings.
The Way to Train
KEITS training providers were recently awarded ‘Training Provider of the Year’ at the BFA’s Industry Awards, and Kay Stone, another KEITS apprenticeship tutor, won the ‘Floristry Tutor of the Year’ award. So congratulations were very much in order as the NAS event took place just a few weeks later… all in all leading to a very successful period for the whole KEITS team!
Jodie told me a little bit about why she’s glad she chose to train with KEITS:
“Unlike college training, it’s much more realistic. I can finish a design, upload a picture of it to the internet, and then it’s actually sold in the shop. I love it because it means that the work I do whilst learning is always for real orders for real customers, so I get that satisfaction from selling something that you don’t get if you’re just making designs for yourself at college.”
Proud tutor Mel added:
“We think that out-of-college training is the way forward because it forces learners to be realistic with their work, which prepares them for the real world of work much better. For example, our in-shop learners have to be quick enough for the real world of retail, and aware of all the different constraints involved – like the cost of flowers. College training can sometimes ignore these all-important factors.”
KEITS were delighted to have been able to give their learners such a fantastic opportunity, and every one of the florists gushed about how thrilled they were to be taking part. Abbey (of Joanne’s Florist, Kingstanding), was particularly appreciative, having only been in training for seven weeks. To be able to undertake a project like this so early on in her career is a brilliant feat for her. She told me why she first entered the world of flowers:
“When I was 16, my dad passed away. I went to Joanne’s, my local florist, and after seeing Joanne come up with so many amazing funeral designs I fell in love with floristry and wanted to be doing it too! As soon as I heard that an apprenticeship at Joanne’s was on offer, I jumped on the chance.”
Proud and Privileged
Florists from Shellie’s Flowers in Birmingham were out in force for the event as each of them were completing training schemes. Lucy was even celebrating her first anniversary as a florist on the day! Her beaming boss Shellie said:
“I’ve been a florist since I was Lucy’s age! I’ve now had my shop for around 24 years. I feel so proud of my girls! And for Lucy to be given an opportunity like this after just twelve months is fantastic.”
Lucy’s love for flowers became clear at an early age. She told me:
“I did my year ten work experience with Shellie. I wanted to work with flowers straight after school but there weren’t any college floristry courses in my area so I couldn’t study it that way.
“Later on I was a bridesmaid at the wedding of a family friend, and Shellie was doing the flowers. She mentioned that she was looking for an apprentice and I jumped at the chance, so she took me on straight away. I even got to help with the flowers for the wedding!”
It was clear that Shellie was incredibly proud of her girls, who told me how privileged they felt. Jodie, who has been working for Shellie for six years, commented:
“I feel so lucky to be able to do this… things like this don’t come around very often. I feel so proud!”
KEITS tutor Mel explained that KEITS don’t just work with any florist – they vet their employers to ensure they get the most out of their learners, and Shellie and team are a shining example. Mel and Karen were so pleased to have been able to give their learners such a fantastic opportunity.
Once all of the arrangements were in place, whilst the dancers were busy doing last minute rehearsals, the floristry team were able to fully take in their surroundings. The whole place looked uber glamorous – their arrangements sparkling beneath the spotlights. There was even time to take a photo of the team looking like true stars on stage before they rushed off to complete the rest of the day’s orders!
All of the learners who helped make the event such a success are:
Lucy Strafford and Jodie Beet, Shellie’s Flowers, Birmingham,
Abigail Brotheridge, Joanne’s Florist, Birmingham
Fiona Wakefield, Zoe Worsley and Annie Moore, Flowers of Borough Green, Kent
Carrie Burgess, The Milton Flower Shop, Cambridge
Sapphire Edgeley, Janet and Jaynes, Wisbech
Hannah McDonald, Mulberries the Florist, Huntingdon
Along with KEITS tutors Mel Webb and Karen Armstrong, and employer and florist Michelle Marklow.