There are questions that are repeated over and over. One is from young people considering their future in the work-world, “Where can I find a meaningful career?” and the other from employers, “Where can I find good help?”
It seems that we could use a match-maker of sorts: employers with job seekers.
Why Horticulture? We work in a profession that abounds with job opportunities and now is one of the best times to seek work here as the season is exploding before us.
The biggest challenge for the gardening profession is finding and keeping good help. Fact is there are many career opportunities in landscaping, nursery growing, grounds maintenance and retail horticulture. However, just like plumbers, carpenters and electricians, professional gardeners and landscapers must ‘work their way up’ and prove themselves before they will become “better paid” supervisors or partners in the firm. Post-secondary education can help move you up the ladder.
The Future of Horticulture
In Ontario, there are 12 permanent post-secondary schools that offer degree and diploma programs in the diverse field of horticulture. At a recent ceremony where 18 horticultural scholarship award winners were assembled we had the opportunity to ask them questions about their choice of profession. Here are some of the results:
“The future of horticulture looks sustainable and environmentally-friendly. I see our profession as being one of the first to respond to global warming. Since the earth is our canvass.” Rachel Radauskas sees a greater use of native plants in home landscapes in our future. We love that expression, “the earth is our canvass” as it describes the raw material of any great garden design.
Katie Nikora, who attends University of Guelph, explained her commitment to horticulture this way, “I wanted to dedicate my life to conservation, preservation and bringing natural wonders into the hearts and homes of everyone.” Note the reference to bringing nature to people, which can be as close as your back yard.
Shawntanna Atkinson who attends the Fanshaw Landscape Design program answered us this way, “I’ve always had a passion for the environment and the rejuvenating feeling it gives me. I have discovered that plants act as a healing element in many rehabilitation centres. When I learned this, I knew that I wanted to become a landscape designer.”
Evan Jenkins, another student from the U of Guelph horticulture degree program, believes that the future looks downright robotic. “I want to learn about computer assisted design technology, mechanics such as robotic lawn maintenance and the use of drones for landscape management purposes. I want to use innovative technology in whatever area of horticulture I choose as my career path.” Now here is a forward-looking student. While in Scotland this fall we saw robotic lawn mowers used in public parks. No doubt, they will be in a park near you very soon.
Shawntanna said, “When I am working in the profession I wish to create spaces where people can heal, feel safe and relax.” Her suggestion is that it is the nature of the work itself that can be its greatest reward. Shawntanna uses the language of a modern Canadian: inclusive, understanding of fellow humans and full of hope.
There are many opportunities for full and part time work in horticulture. Gaining a formal education can only help applicants qualify for a job, but just the same, there are many training sessions offered by our industry trade organisation, Landscape Ontario that can help you get that leg up.
Access to companies that need help this season are a few clicks away at https://www.landscape.jobs/. We are inspired by these motivated young people. With visions of natural beauty in our “hearts and homes.”
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and holds the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, on Facebook and bi-weekly on Global TV’s National Morning Show.