News | 28 September 2023
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Garden apprenticeship leads to dream job at Wellington Zoo

From feeling lost about what he wanted to do with his career to nabbing the dream job as a gardener at Wellington Zoo, Corrin Imlach credits his new role to the Horticulture Apprenticeship at Wellington City Council's Berhampore Nursery.

Man standing in uniform at the Wellington Zoo.
Corrin in his new role at Wellington Zoo.

After college, Corrin made the move from Wellington down to Christchurch to study engineering at university.  

It wasn’t long before he left the course and decided that he wanted to hunt for a full-time job in Wellington.  

“I was searching for office jobs for ages, just whatever I could find. I think I applied for around 30 jobs and didn’t really get a call back. I ended up getting offered a temp position, not in an office, but outside at the Southern Landfill." 

Corrin jumped at the opportunity and worked for 10 weeks at the landfill doing maintenance work.  

This short stint eventually led him to working at the Wellington Botanical Garden ki Paekākā in grounds maintenance, where he heard about the Horticulture Apprenticeship - a three-year programme where you complete a NZ Certificate in Horticulture (Level Four) - Nursery.   

Loving his time at the Gardens, when he finished his short-term contract, he applied for the apprenticeship and landed the role, which was based out at the Berhampore Nursery. 

He believes that the structure of the apprenticeship - working while studying - meant he could apply his practical day-to-day experiences and knowledge to his studies.  

“Everyone does the internship on a different timeline. Your first year is usually working towards level three, and your last two years are at level four.  

“The coursework is booklet-type work, and from my perspective it feels like you’re doing all the things in the course already so you can easily come up with examples. It didn’t feel overwhelming to do both. It all worked out so well.” 

Man standing next to a wooden planter box wearing a green shirt and beanie.
Corrin taking part in the Hidden Gardens competition during his apprenticeship.

Little did Corrin know, his apprenticeship played a significant part when it came to nabbing his dream role.  

An apprentice team-building day was held at the Wellington Zoo, which had just advertised for a new gardener. As his apprenticeship was nearly done, he took the chance to apply.  

“It was all just a weird coincidence. I got to meet my current manager. The timeline worked out perfectly.”  

Now, Corrin has just started working at the Zoo in his brand-new role where he gets to work with animals and nature all at once. 

“I do the gardening around the zoo and occasionally get to do work within the habitats for the keepers. The other day I spent hours putting in 30 plants around the kangaroos, and then I came back the next day and they had all been eaten!  

“You really don’t know if they’re going to like your work,” he laughs. 
Corrin is super happy with his career, feels like he’s hit the jackpot and is thankful for the apprenticeship for getting him to this point. 

“Gardening lets me do a bit of everything. You have flexibility in your day and get to choose what you want to work on. You also get to spend a lot of time outside, so in summer you are just constantly in the sun.  

“When I left high school, I didn’t know gardening was even a real job – I always thought it was more of a hobby. It really surprised me. I’m glad I’m here now.” 

To find out more about the Horticulture Apprenticeship, please contact