Marwell Zoo is cultivating careers thanks to investment into its unique £7.8 million Tropical House exhibit – its largest and most ambitious project to date.
A £1.5 million Local Growth Fund (LGF) grant from the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is enabling Marwell Zoo, an iconic regional asset, to grow future talent.
The Tropical House, a state-of-the-art exhibit where a rainforest and living laboratory will come to life, represents a critical venture as part of a 10 year £17 million investment strategy to offer improved habitats for animals and a more immersive experience for guests.
The project is designed to bring low carbon, rural and tourism economy benefits and is anticipated to continue to uplift Marwell Zoo’s contribution to jobs and the economy over five years.
Abi Cain earned a full-time contract at Marwell Zoo following a successful 12-month horticulture apprenticeship in partnership with Sparsholt College.
Abi, 18, said: “I have found my dream career at Marwell. I can’t imagine doing anything else now. It may seem simple but there is nothing more satisfying than planting a seed and watching it grow and develop.
“The apprenticeship at Marwell has given me self-confidence and with a bit more confidence, it makes life a lot easier.”
Abi, who was awarded a Level 2 Diploma in Practical Horticulture following her apprenticeship, now works as a Plants and Landscapes Assistant and is playing a vital role in the Tropical House development under the wing of Lance Ingram, Head of Plants and Landscapes.
Abi, who is now completing A Levels distance learning courses in Environmental Studies and English, explained: “When I first came to Marwell for my interview, Lance showed me a model of the Tropical House and what is was going to be like. I have gone from the most basic gardening at home with a passion for horticulture at the age of 18, to being part of planning out a giant Tropical House. It really is such a massive achievement and I feel incredibly proud to be part of that.
“It was amazing seeing it go from paper to practice and being part of the team where everyone has our own responsibilities. I helped to plan out the best position for the plants, the soil levels, and getting the plants from the lorries inside.
“Now all the plants are all in place, it’s a huge achievement. We will be growing cotton and pineapple, the things people consume so they can fully appreciate the natural world. It will be hugely rewarding to grow our own fruit in the Tropical House too. I take care of the vegetable patch behind Marwell Hall and the vegetables go up to the restaurant and to the animals too. That’s really rewarding.
“The apprenticeship opportunity has changed me as a person massively. I’ve developed people skills, to listen and learn, I’ve become more confident, more motivated and the people I work with are great. I’ve made a lot of friends.
“It’s definitely shaped me as a person and it has given me goals for my future.
“There are a lot of pressures in life being young but with a job like this, it gives you confidence and I’m incredibly grateful. It makes my day when our guests comment on the grounds and the plants and I’m really looking forward to the public seeing inside the Tropical House.”