Meet the Apprenticeships Team

Our team have a wealth of knowledge within their chosen fields, with practical real-life experience that they will pass on to you as you learn.

DC Vickers

Arboriculture Programme Manager

I am BCA's Apprenticeship Arboriculture Programme Manager. As a qualified teacher holding a BA (Hons) in Education and has QTLS status, is a City & Guilds NPTC assessor and qualified LOLER examiner for arboricultural equipment, I have been delivering forestry and arboricultural courses since 2005, initially at Sparsholt College then via my own business, Drivelink Training.

In my spare time, I write for essentialArb magazine (with a series called Lets Get Climbing), and Forestry & Timber News (produced by ConFor, the forestry trade body). As well as written for ProArb magazine in the past and wrote a book on chainsaw maintenance in conjunction with Makita.

Recently a part of the steering committee with the Arboricultural Association, setting out the five new technical guides that are due to be released to the industry in 2019 and is now on the peer review group for the climbing and rigging guides. Discover some of my work via LinkedIN;

In 2013, I came out as transgender, it was ‘one of the scariest things I have ever done’ but have since been met with universal acceptance; naturally enough, treating others with respect is high on my beliefs. I am married and lives in Farnham, Surrey.
Deborah Smirfitt

Apprenticeship Trainer, Horticulture

I am one of BCA’s Horticultural Apprenticeship Trainers covering everything Horticulture from Landscaping to Garden design, Sports turf to Production and Gardening.

Having grown up in the city I found myself most content when helping my dad in the garden and on his allotments, I was privileged to have a number of parks and gardens where we lived and I spent the rest of the time in these.

So when we moved to Kent it was no surprise to my family that I found myself a position as an apprentice gardener for my local authority. This led to me gaining a full time place at an FE college such as BCA, and my career blossomed from there.

After several years working in various roles in horticulture which included being a Head Gardener for an Historic dockyard restoring some fantastic forgotten gardens, I then found myself working part time as a lecturer for a nearby college and then I came to BCA as Head of Horticulture, Countryside and Floristry where I stayed for 10 Years.

Then I took the brave (I am not sure all would agree with this) step to go back into industry for a few years, realising I missed education (I will deny this) I rejoined BCA in 2014 as an apprenticeship assessor.

(I recently qualified as the 1st Female IEPA (Independant end point assessor) for greenkeeping on the new standards).
Emma Robinson

Commercial Manager

I love my job, it combines everything I like to do; it’s energetic, people focused and education is at the core. It’s very much employer responsive and is all about the horticultural/land-based industries.

The land-based, apprenticeships and education sectors are areas that I love and enjoy being involved in. A large part of my personal ambition is to help introduce more talent into land-based industries and in some cases we at BCA are opening this industry up to people for whom it is an entirely new world.

I am the Business Development Manager at BCA and I deal with clients who wish to take on apprentices, up-skill a member of the team, or help them recruit someone new. I am motivated by seeing an apprentice grow, learn and succeed, as well as knowing that their company is enjoying training new talent whilst benefiting from the success of their learner. I also want to be part of the industry in order to help fill the skills shortage that the land-based sector is currently experiencing.

My background always pointed me towards a career in this field. I love the outdoors and people and had a great childhood as my grandparents had a farm. We were involved in all aspects of this. I studied English at university, enjoyed a brief stint as a local journalist, then took an HNC in horticulture, went on to teach at a land-based college, eventually working with Apprenticeships and Business.

My father is a gardener and I was always the one who wanted a patch of garden to grow things on in our garden. Watching my father transform these large areas of land into magnificent gardens for people to take pleasure in throughout the seasons has been a huge influence on me. I want to make sure that the public, learners and employers are aware of the dedication, skill and science involved in land-based jobs and I see that as part of my role at BCA. Bringing apprentices into the right firms to see them grow into confident and skilled individuals is at the heart of our success.
Jane Forsdick

Apprenticeship Trainer, Floristry

I have been working within the Floristry department at BCA for the past two years now. I began as the floristry assessor for the talented Level 2 apprentices, which is still my current role, along with teaching apprentices at BCA for their off-the –job training.

I first began my journey with flowers in 1996 when I completed my two year BTEC National Diploma in London. This led me to working for many great florists in London designing at some amazing venues and learning all the essential skills to become a successful florist.

Many years later I decided to complete my Level 4 Higher Diploma In Floristry as a BCA student myself. During this course I realised what a beautiful location the college is set in and what an inspiring environment it was to learn in. I continued to work freelancing as a florist and running my own studio, designing event and wedding flowers. I discovered my love for teaching through holding many small private workshops for all ages and abilities.

Following experience of working with children age 14-16 in a school environment with supporting teaching and learning I decided to study for my assessors award. Since assessing floristry apprentices at BCA I have seen such talent from the students. It is very rewarding to see them learn new skills at college then to visit their workplace, putting these skills to practice and producing some beautiful floral designs for customers.
Jem Fox

Apprenticeship Trainer, Horticulture/Groundsmen

I have worked in the sports turf industry for 25 years. I have worked on fine sports turf surfaces and also in the football and rugby industry in both stadiums and training grounds to premier league level.

I was awarded the Head Groundsman of the Year by the Football League for my stadium pitch work.

I have been an Assessor for 9 years with BCA and carry out assessments covering a wide range sports turf areas. I have assessed at many of the local golf clubs and sports grounds to Level 2 and 3 standards. I enjoy assessing and helping students achieve a qualification and full time employment in the sports turf industry.
Liz Apedaile

Apprenticeship Trainer, Horticulture

I was lucky to have been brought up in a home where growing plants was an important part of daily life. My original plan was to follow a career in some aspect of Agriculture so I spent 3 years at university in Aberystwyth studying Agricultural Botany. By then I had decided I wanted to work in research preferably in grassland management. I became a research student at Liverpool University in the Botany department but worked at the Welsh Plant Breeding Station just outside Aberystwyth. After 4 years the world of research had changed drastically and the job opportunities were very limited. I was awarded my PhD but had to rethink where I was going to work.

I returned to Buckinghamshire and was employed by Beacon Garden Centres on their management training scheme. I learned a lot about garden plants and a whole new world of plant related work but decided that I didn’t want a career in retail. Eventually I was taken on by Graham Bell Landscapes who were based at Farnham Common Nurseries as a trainee designer. Here I learned not just garden design but also how to specify materials, prepare quotations and run landscaping projects. In addition I had access to a nursery that grew most of its own plants and was used by local contractors.

I then worked as a freelance designer with several contractors and also took on my own planting projects. I have been a preregistered member of the Society of Garden Designers for many years and started up a local cluster group that I am still involved in.

I also worked at Farnham Common Nurseries on their trade sales for three years and was a director of Buckinghamshire Design and Landscaping with a contractor who I had previously worked for. In 2001 we designed and built a show garden at Hampton Court Flower Show.

I joined BCA in 2015 as a part time Horticulture Lecturer and started working with the apprentices after 6 months. I believe that Horticulture should be promoted as a vital industry and that without knowledgeable, skilled people it becomes undervalued. Although I am now involved full time as an apprenticeship trainer, I maintain my contacts in the industry and continue to keep myself up to date with with new developments and trends.
Liz Hadden

Assistant Principal, Land

I have worked in the Land-based education sector for over 20 years. My passion has always been horses, currently owning a lovely Irish Sports Horse but enjoy all country pursuits including working and training my 3 Gun Dogs and I am a trained Land Rover winch recovery marshal.

In my current role at BCA as Assistant Principal I have the privilege of working with a team of fantastic Land-based Professionals and students that are setting out on their own exciting journey. It gives me great pleasure to see young people find their paths, grow in confidence and achieve their goals whilst with us here at BCA.

I started my career in the Equine industry, studying a Btec in Business and Finance with Equestrian Studies at Duchy College in Cornwall, a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Horses Management as Head Groom on the College Equestrian Centre and then onto an HND in Equine Science. Throughout this time I also gained British Horse Society Qualifications including BHS AI, Intermediate Teaching and Intermediate Stable Manager.

On graduation I worked as a freelance instructor to many local Pony Clubs and Liaison Officer and Assessor for Apprentices at Duchy College. After holding various roles at the college including Stable Manager, Equine Lecturer and Site Safety Officer, I returned to Berkshire in 2007 to take up the post of Equine Lecturer here at Berkshire College of Agriculture. Continuing my studies, I gained a BSc in Equine Science via distance learning.
Lois Phillips

Apprenticeship Trainer, Agriculture

I am a research consultant and trainer with over 30 years experience. I am currently the Director of my own business- Emslie and Crocker Rural Consulting, working with a range of clients that include academic institutions, private buinesses and public sector bodies.

I have had long career in providing advice and training based on practical research and fertiliser trials dating back to the mid 1980s. Her work has included improving fertiliser efficiency on grassland farms for both dairy and beef/sheep. The work was carried out at Hurley, Berkshire and North Wyke Research, Okehampton Devon.

I have worked within the organic farming sector specialising in soil and nutrient managment. Working with some of the best known organic farms in the UK.
I have been involved with organic certification and training in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

My current work involves training the next generation as an apprenticeship trainer with Berkshire College of Agriculture. And working with young people to promote the links between urban and rural environments, in particular an understanding of farming and food production with reference to the circular economy.

For a number of years I was a UK Skills Judge involved with developing running and judging an environmental science competition.

I am also a STEM Ambassador.

Through the development of my adult training program “Down to Earth” I am a regular speaker to garden.
Mark Guscott

Apprenticeship Trainer, Motor Vehicle

My name is Mark Guscott and I am the primary motor vehicle assessor for apprenticeships at BCA. I have been in the assessor role for the last twelve years, the last three with BCA.

I have been involved in the motor trade for over thirty years covering job roles from dealer parts departments, service technician, service management roles through working in a technical role as call centre operative for British gas fleet. Since that time I have been in my assessor role.
I am city and guilds level 3 qualified and have a good range of knowledge across the industry.

Out of work I am either riding my motorcycle, Looking after my 8 dogs, helping out with a Husky rescue and doing DIY.
Rob Phillips

Apprenticeship Trainer, Horticulture/Greenkeeping

I am the Apprenticeship Trainer for Greenkeeping here at BCA and have worked in the industry for 32 years. I began my career at Porters Park Golf Club in Hertfordshire, working my way up to the position of Deputy Head Greenkeeper before leaving in 1995 to take up the position of Golf Course Manager at Sandy Lodge Golf Club in Middlesex, preparing the course over 21 years for regional and national events, including the Regional Open Qualifying Series. I have an HNC in Sportsturf, hold City & Guilds Qualifications in Sports Turf Management and Amenity Horticulture Business Management and was awarded an R&A Scholarship in 2013 following a successful interview held at St Andrews. Most recently I have been registered with City & Guilds as an Independent End Point Assessor for the new Level 2 Apprenticeship Standard.

I have been actively involved with the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) for many years as both Chairman and Treasurer of the London Section Committee and am currently the Education Officer for the East Anglia Section. I have been a keen golfer from a very young age and like to support BIGGA Section Golf Days and educational events whenever I can, currently holding “Approved” status for Continuing Professional Development.

I live in Norfolk with my Wife Kerry, who is the South East Regional Administrator for BIGGA and have two sons, one aged 24, a Gunner in the Royal Air Force Regiment and the younger aged 21, studying a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Sheffield.

I left Greenkeeping towards the end of 2016 and am delighted to be able to pass on my knowledge and experience. Offering both classroom and online based programmes, we aim further enhance Greenkeeping standards, and BCA’s reputation for delivering them.
Sophie Robinson

Senior Apprenticeships Coordinator

I joined BCA in November 2016 and immediately loved the beautiful surroundings. Having lived in a town environment all of my life, it certainly was a shock to be surrounded by fresh air and so much mud!

After leaving school, I was very keen to enter the working world and although I did dabble with the idea of college, it was ultimately an Apprenticeship that I set my heart on. Soon after, I found myself working for an independent training provider and quickly worked my way through both my Level 2 and Level 3 Apprenticeships in Business and Administration. I then spent a while working for a large commercial training company, providing training and system support to Lloyds Bank, before settling back into the world of Apprenticeships with BCA - I couldn't keep away for long!

We're a fast-growing team at BCA and I absolutely love the challenges and rewards the job brings. I'm super passionate about Apprenticeships and the benefits they can bring to both people and businesses. I thoroughly enjoy interacting with all of our lovely employers and providing help to people who are kick-starting their careers with an Apprenticeship, just like I once did.
Vicky Beckwith

Head of Land (Hortic, Flor, Ag)

Working with animals, companion and farm has been a massive part of my life since I left school. I was always going to be a vet, or that was the hope, however although I did well in my GCSE’s it was my A level grades that weren’t high enough.

After studying a HND in Animal Management and working for the RSPCA at a rescue centre I completed a Honours Degree in Animal Industry Management.I chose this degree as it meant that i would in theory be able to work with all animals, companion and farm.
Whilst studying I ran my own sheep flock and calf rearing unit with my partner. My husband is a farmer and therefore we have been working and living on farms all of our time together and as many are aware if you live on a farm there is no escaping learning new skills.

After working in rescue and rehabilitation with the RSPCA for 6 years it was time for a new challenge, and in 2007 I joined BCA as an instructor of animal management. I soon became a lecturer and course manager, then after a further 3 years I became Head of Agriculture, Horticulture and Floristry- Where I helped to put Agriculture back onto the curriculum.
During my time at BCA I have completed My PGCE, QTLS teaching qualifications and I’m currently working towards my TAQA, verification qualification. I continue to enjoy my land based teaching and management role and envisage me staying in the further education industry for a long time. I find there is no better feeling than knowing that you have helped someone develop the skills and knowledge to be able to do the job they love.