In September 2018, the National Association of Landscape Professionals, through its Industry Growth Initiative, held an association-focused Workforce Development and Recruitment Summit at its office in Fairfax, Virginia, to address the industry’s workforce shortage.

Approximately 50 attendees from major regional green industry associations, as well as experts from other major industries attended the event, sharing their respective experiences in dealing with the realities of the workforce shortage, as well brainstorming solutions.


“I don’t need more business; I need more people to do the work.”

That is the underlying sentiment that landscape asso- ciation representatives expressed at last year’s Workforce Development and Recruitment Summit. And the times haven’t changed; in fact, the situation has escalated. Landscaping has the second worst unemployment

rate by industry—only construction has it beat, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And for the first time in history, there are more job openings than there are eligible workers to fill them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that there are 6.7 million job openings and just 6.4 million available workers. (For more labor statistics, see “How NALP and the NALP Foundation are Responding to the Workforce Crisis” on page 14.) The “No. 1 problem for businesses is finding qualified workers,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s.

“At the current pace of job growth, if sustained, this prob- lem is set to get much worse. These labor shortages will only intensify across all industries and company sizes.” So, we feel your pain; the workforce shortage is real. Now what are we going to do about it?


At the Workforce Development and Recruitment Summit, attendees started by sharing their current workforce chal- lenges and wins. The goal of the meeting was to realize that “while we compete with other industries for people, we are also in this together,” explained Missy Henriksen, vice presi- dent, public affairs, NALP. “We must share our voices, so we can educate each other and work together to fill vacancies.” Experts from other industries, including Greg Sizemore, vice president of HSE and workforce development for Associated Builders and Contractors, and Jay Lim, vice president of workforce development policy at the American Trucking Association, presented their related workforce dilemmas and how they are battling them.

Then, Carolyn Renick with the U.S. Department of

Labor, along with industry representatives, dove into the topic of apprenticeships and the programs currently in place, as well as those being launched (like NALP’s program that launched in February; see page 18 for more information), and how landscape professionals can take better advantage of using these programs to enhance their workforces.

These are the common themes that resonated during discussions among the group:

• Landscape, construction and trucking are word-of- mouth industries. To attract talent, we must continue to tell our stories. This also will help combat the stigma that a person is not successful unless he or she goes to college.

• The landscape industry provides rewarding careers people don’t need degrees to land. We need to show prospective employees how they can learn and grow within our organizations.

• Educating children at a young age (and their parents) about the importance of landscapes and the benefits of a career that helps the environment is a good idea. We must change their perception of landscaping as a career by showcasing the many options available.

• We must highlight the advantages of working outdoors, especially in an increasingly technology-heavy and indoor-reliant society.

• Landscape professionals should take advantage of regional and national apprenticeship programs to attract workers. This could encourage millennials and those from Generation Z to start earning while they learn versus acquiring debt by attending college right away.

• The industry should consider tapping into all categories for potential employees, including retirees, women, veterans/former military and former prison inmates.



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