With the numerous possibilities that the year 2020 could bring to the green industry, one important concept to keep an eye on is how the incoming workforce could either strengthen or weaken the current labor shortage the industry is facing.
While it is important to focus on the workers currently in the field, it’s also vital to look to the future and see what can be done now to bring more students into the green industry and grow their interest in the field.
Caitlin Clineff, recruiting specialist and company ambassador with Myatt Landscaping Concepts, says that in her day-to-day life, she works hard to play an active part in helping combat the labor crisis.
Through her work with Myatt Landscaping, Clineff says she has had the opportunity to work with four to six summer interns each year, and she has also been able to meet with students from across the nation through her involvement in career fairs and workforce development programs.
“I meet a lot of students from high schools, technical colleges and 4-year universities, but I get to interact more closely with about 60-90 high school and college students per year through the programs we offer at Myatt Landscaping, including field trips, coaching sessions for students attending NALP’s National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC), part-time jobs and summer internships,” says Clineff.
When looking at a nationwide scope, Clineff says it’s hard to determine whether or not student interest in the green industry has grown or declined, but when looking locally, she says she has definitely noticed more students asking Myatt about green industry opportunities.
With the knowledge that these interested students are, indeed, out there and willing to take on the challenges of green industry work, the next move for landscaping companies is to find ways to seek out these students and bolster their interests in the field.
Piquing their interest
When gauging the level and preferred area of interest of the incoming workforce, it’s important to take a look at why these students first expressed an interest in the green industry in the first place.
For Cameron Burcham, a senior at West Johnson High School in Benson, North Carolina, the idea of making money from lawn care came at an early age after his grandmother taught him how to use the lawnmower.
“One day, a neighbor who did not have a lawnmower asked if I would be willing to cut his grass for $20,” says Burcham. “The idea of doing something I enjoyed while making my own money was exciting. As I got older, I began to take more interest in lawn care and started putting more of the money I made from cutting grass into the maintenance of my equipment.”
Once in high school, Burcham says he began taking horticulture classes to expand his knowledge on the science behind plants, as well as get more hands-on experiences working with plants. Along with horticulture classes, he also enrolled in the JROTC program. These two classes, he says, are some of the major factors he attributes to being awarded an internship with Myatt Landscaping.
For Matthew Pendleton, a freshman in the Agriculture Institute at North Carolina State University, green industry work was just second nature by the time he reached college.
Growing up on a farm in rural North Carolina, Pendleton says he has been heavily involved in agriculture and outdoor work since he was very young.
“It was not until my junior year of high school that I began to explore other career opportunities in the agriculture industry, and through my high school’s agriculture department, I was tasked with multiple landscape projects,” says Pendleton. “One, however, stood out to me. I was tasked with designing and drawing a home landscape plan that included multiple types of trees, ornamental grasses and hardscapes. It was at this point that I discovered my true love for the landscape industry and that was the driving force behind my degree and career choice.”
Today, Pendleton is pursuing a degree in landscape technology and turfgrass management.
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of this series, where we’ll look at some of the work experience these students have gained so far, as well as why landscape professionals need to stress the importance of green industry careers.