August is behind us! For the horticulture industry, a period of overabundances. Workdays were longer. We also had excessive rain and extreme temperatures to manage. Continue to be safe. On the positive side, let’s appreciate the gift of seasonally high revenues, despite our bodies telling us to dry off and rest!
August and September are also when our children return to school. For some of us, a blessing, and others a time of grief. I won’t tell in which camp you are! Be safe at work and be safe on the roadways.
Yet, for the FNGLA, September is a time of opportunity. Specifically, it’s an opportunity to address our labor challenges. In 2010, we boasted an economic impact of $16 billion with 204,000 employees across our State of Florida. In 2015, those figures rose to $21 billion with 232,000 employees. We should all be very proud of these very impressive numbers!
I keep sharing with anyone who will listen, the three biggest issues I hear from FNGLA members are: labor, followed by labor, and, in third place, labor. Despite a rise of employees in our most recent economic impact study, a labor pool of 232,000 employees is clearly still not enough.
Further, one need not be a political insider to know our nation’s leaders will not likely reach across aisles and address comprehensive immigration reform. As well, our forthcoming November mid-term elections here in Florida are currently too close call. And, the ramifications for labor cast serious concerns in Tallahassee. Please vote in November and encourage everyone you know to do the same.
So, what can we do to even slightly, and, hopefully, dramatically, enhance our labor pool?
Well, a select team of FNGLA leaders and stalwart staff have been working long hours to address our labor shortage. The program’s working title is Skills and Education for Entrepreneurial Development (SEED).
We lightheartedly refer to Stefan Liopiros (Lawn Enforcement in Gainesville) of FNGLA’s Frontrunners Chapter, as the “SEED Czar.”
Liopiros, along with his team and our FNGLA staff, has been tirelessly laying the groundwork to “home grow” a labor pool.
In support of this initiative, the FNGLA team is working to develop recruitment videos for FNGLA leaders to take into schools to educate interested students and teachers on hopeful careers in our great (and prosperous!) industry. Winning the excitement of our young folks and, as importantly, their parents, about the many different opportunities in our industry is critical to our sustainability and potential growth.
Later this month. FNGLA staff members Linda Reindl and Merry Mott will head to the DC suburbs of Virginia to attend the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Landscape Summit. While at NALP, Merry and Linda plan to hear directly from other industry partners (such as Seed Your Future) to gain insights on the best ways to engage with the next generation.
Inside the FNGLA office, our staff last month released the inaugural edition of the Horticulture Educator Newsletter, a quarterly email for Florida’s middle and high school horticulture educators. This publication will serve as a direct contact between FNGLA’s certifications department and state-wide educational partners.
Also, in an effort to offer opportunities in different industry areas, FNGLA is creating a Landscape Irrigation Technician certification as a way to innovate and expand the measurement of professionalism in this arena. Efficient irrigation is critical to our other grand challenge – water – and, in time, can attract new folks into our industry and association.
Stay tuned for more on FNGLA’s Workforce Initiative at the upcoming 2018 Landscape Show on October 4-6 at the Orange County Convention Center. Look for Merry Mott who will, no doubt be chatting up a line of eager plant ID takers at FNGLA’s Certification Showcase booth #1085. And, lastly, despite our very best efforts, we are all ears in solving our labor woes. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any ideas, promising local programs, and/or close ties with candidates or incumbents who can move the needle on vocational opportunities.