The consumer confidence level dropped to an all time low this week according to a story on NPR news. This follows suit with dismal retail sales for the holiday season, falling home prices and large increases in unemployment. Some are calling the current combination of falling home prices, higher unemployment and low consumer sentiment the worst in decades. There are always stories of some industries which seem to be resilient even during these tough economic conditions. Healthcare of course is in dire need of nurses even with large cut backs in government funding pending. Education is another area where jobs are plentiful especially for professionals like principals and superintendents. Experts say that as many as 3 out of 5 superintendents plan on retiring in he next five years.
Despite the dismal retail and business environment one industry continues to have trouble attracting qualified long term employees. The green industry, horticulture not alternative energy, is suffering fro a lack of qualified employees. So misunderstood is the professional horticulture industry that many high school guidance e counselors discourage students from seeking employment or education in the field. To many the horticulture industry is low income manual labor seasonal at best positions in landscape companies and lawn mowing services.
However all the creative aspects of business from marketing to advertising to even licensing also exist in the original “green” industry. Recruiting has been so problematic that two dozen green industry trade organizations have launched a web site to try and change the general opinion of the industry. TheLandLovers.org is a site aimed at raising awareness of the green industry.
The site is targeted at junior and senior high school students who have yet to determine a career path. The site provides readers with a background on the industry and employment opportunities from retail management, plant growing, landscape design and irrigation. Landscape architecture is a growing field within the green industry. With the myriad of environmental and zoning regulations plaguing retail and residential development across the country landscape architects are essential in mitigating runoff, watershed protection as well as pedestrian traffic patterns issues. No longer are landscape architects thought of those who could not choose between dirt or skyscrapers.
Much of the recruitment effort in the horticulture industry and construction trades alike has been getting entry level employees through work visas for foreign workers. Landscape firms compete with the hospitality industry for seasonal workers and the government has reduced the number of workers allowed to come in under more restrictive immigration policies.
The main thrust of the web site is to attract students interested in management supervisory and even business ownership as opposed to entry level. According to Cassie Larson the groups leader of information and education the industry is in dire straits when it comes to finding future leaders. There is a large shortage of workers at all levels of the green industry. With marketing firms promoting gardening as a lifestyle rather than a hobby this will only exasperate the need for qualified workers at all levels. If consumers continue embrace gardening as both a lifestyle and a way to put cheap food on the table they will demand a qualified talent pool to assist them in their gardening activities. As a case in point there is a growing trend in which consumers hire gardeners to design, plant, maintain and harvest fruits and vegetables from their back yard gardens. This is immensely popular in areas of second homes where weekenders like to have fresh produce waiting for them on their door step when they arrive.
The end goal according to Gregg Robertson of the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery association is a complete re-branding of the entire horticulture industry. He claims the best way is to market the industry based on the benefits that the industry provides to the public not just the features of a nicer looking rose garden.