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Turning a Hobby into a Profession with Gardener Training

Azubi Arnold Steinbrecher bewässert Pflanzen im Botanischen Garten Jena.

Completing a voluntary social year after finishing a-levels and then starting to study German language and literature sounds like a straightforward curriculum vitae without any unusual incisions. Even a change of subject in the first semesters is not uncommon. But to start an apprenticeship as a gardener at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena after successfully completing a bachelor's degree in book trade and publishing is a career path that certainly not many would dare to take. Arnold Steinbrecher has chosen exactly this course and could not be happier with his decision.

First Choice Botanical Garden Jena

"During my practical semester in a science publishing house, I already noticed that I was not one hundred per cent content," the trainee admits. Instead of spending years doing a job he doesn’t like, Steinbrecher decided to turn his hobby into a profession. "I wanted to do something I would enjoy in the long run – and what better place for a plant nerd to work than at the Botanical Garden?” The university as a training institution outside of a degree programme may seem strange to some, but in these days, the University of Jena alone offers twelve apprenticeships.

For Arnold Steinbrecher, the University's Botanical Garden was the first choice for his vocational education – and there were good reasons for that: "I had visited at some gardens before, but in Jena I particularly liked the planting and found the structure very visitor-friendly, even though I had no idea about the technical aspects." By now, the 29-year-old is in his second year of apprenticeship and is about to take his midterm exam. Before this important part of his training, he and his colleagues were able to enjoy a highlight that hardly any other institution can offer its gardener trainees.

Insights into the World of Plants Even Beyond the Apprenticeship

At the beginning of the year, the current six trainees of the Botanical Garden of the University of Jena visited the world's leading trade fair for plants in Essen together with their district managers. The two-day excursion also included a visit to the Botanical Garden of the city of Bochum. The highlight was the exploration of the exhibition halls of the International Plant Fair (IPM). "On the one hand, it was exciting to see what the work behind the scenes looks like in another training facility. On the other hand, the visit to IPM was a unique opportunity that was not offered to any other student at my vocational school," Steinbrecher reports proudly. Both travel and accommodation costs were covered by the University of Jena to give the young gardeners the opportunity to be inspired by the latest innovations in the world of plants.

Not only the spectacular plant species and technical innovations should be marvelled at. For the trainees, the task was to focus their attention on predefined areas in order to be able to integrate one or the other innovation into their daily work in the future. The topic of sustainability played a particularly important role. "We were presented with peat alternatives as well as new ways to replace the classic plastic plant pots," Steinbrecher reports on his impressions. The apprentice believes that with some of these innovative inventions, everyday life and work in the Botanical Garden can be made even more effective. With all this inspiration at hand, the midterm exam is certainly no obstacle for Arnold Steinbrecher, but only the next step towards a successful future as a plant lover and gardener.