NALP hosts Workforce Summit, addresses labor crisis

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Updated May 2, 2019
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Recently, the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) hosted a Workforce Summit in Alexandria, Virginia, to address the increasing labor shortage facing the green industry today.

During this time, numerous green industry professionals gathered to discuss ideas and suggestions to help bring in a more diverse group of people to the industry, such as more minority groups, women, veterans and students.

How did we get here?

Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NALP, says to figure out how to solve this workforce issue, we as an industry must first answer the question of how we got here and be willing to answer the hard and uncomfortable questions.

“The workforce challenge is too great for the largest company in the industry or anyone else to solve on their own,” says Henriksen. “It’s too great for our state associations and national associations. It’s critical that the industry rallies together so we can address this challenge and we can move on to whatever that next challenge is going to be.”

According to NALP, 71,000 full-time industry jobs went unfilled in 2017, and many contractors have had to turn away business or cancel contracts because there aren’t enough people to do the work. The lack of seasonal, entry-level and management employees, NALP says, is the biggest impediment to growth in the landscape industry.

Along with these findings, NALP says that many equipment dealerships are starved for mechanics, and the number of students who decide to pursue industry-focused collegiate education continues to decline.

New on the horizon

With these issues in mind, NALP says it has begun to revamp the focus of its Industry Growth Initiative (IGI) to attract more entry-level and management employees by targeting the following demographics:

  • Youth and young adults ages 15-38
  • Parents of middle and high school students and recent college graduates
  • Educators and guidance counselors
  • Career changers
  • Hispanics
  • Women

“(Messaging) is critical,” Henriksen says. “This is a great industry and you want other people to come and join you, but they have no idea what awaits them. The first thing we have to do is take the time and educate people. Last year, our messages were seen by 40 million people. That’s 40 million people we want to start connecting with. We want them to start hearing the truth and the accuracies of careers in this industry because there are a lot of misconceptions, and it’s our job to change them as an industry.”

To reach this goal, NALP has launched a partnership with the Student Conservation Association (SCT). NALP says SCT is building the next generation of conservation leaders and inspiring lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.

Through this partnership, NALP says the pilot program will offer internships in the green industry this summer that will allow students to learn about sustainability, stewardship and project management.

NALP says that following work experience, older SCT interns may be given job offers from industry mentors for immediate employment, and the hope is to scale the program nationally.

Along with investing in students, NALP says it will continue to expand its efforts by reaching out to educators and advisors in school systems across the country to promote the NALP Apprenticeship Program through ad campaigns, publishing tool kits, expanding web content with increased information for these influencers and participating in speaking opportunities, publications and trade shows.

“One of the greatest things with the Apprenticeship Program is that it moves your industry from being considered an unskilled trade to a skilled trade,” Henriksen says. “That Department of Labor (DOL) designation makes this considered in the government’s mind a skilled profession.”

NALP says it will also make a more conscious effort to reach out to parents with the Proud Parent Program and create a specific parent’s platform on the current website to provide them with additional resources and content. With these efforts, NALP says it will also provide parents with merchandise and apparel they can proudly wear to represent their landscaping students, as well as increase their current media promotions.

NALP says it will also speak with parents about their Ditch the Debt Campaign, which shows parents the benefits of pursuing a green industry career right out of high school without having to go into student loan or college tuition debt.

NALP says it’s also wanting to take a greater step toward bringing in more minority and women workers, and to help drive this, they will be more actively working to recruit from these labor pools.

To help in the recruitment of women, NALP says they will begin to create more videos and collateral that showcase strong, relatable women, and NALP says they will broadcast this content through advertising, social media and community sharing platforms. NALP adds they also plan to build out their career site to speak more to women considering the profession.

“We’ve recognized that we are not employing 50 percent of the workforce as much as we would like to, so we need to figure out how to attract and retain the eligible women that would be excellent employees that don’t know yet about the industry,” Henriksen says.

To bring in more minority groups, with a concentration on Hispanics, NALP says going forward it will create videos and literature about the industry specifically for the Hispanic community, and they will, likewise, broadcast this content through advertising, social media and community sharing platforms.

NALP says they will also begin to translate the current workforce site content into Spanish, and they will begin reaching out to top Spanish-language national media and layer it with regional targets.

“We have a lot of our literature that we’ve done that is in English only,” Henriksen says. “So, we are working to make sure that we’ve got representation, so people feel welcomed in the community and they feel like the industry is welcoming of their talents and services.”

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