April 15, 2012
By Phil Charal
LO President

phil charal I have just finished reading my friend Terry Murphy’s column in the March 2012 edition of Landscape Ontario magazine (formerly Horticulture Review).

In his letter to the editor, Terry writes about the surprising under-use of the apprenticeship-training program by Landscape Ontario members. Terry wrote, “I cannot understand why employers can’t see the value, or do they not understand the program?”

He is right. There is certainly no mistaking, in my opinion, that the apprenticeship training program is a hidden treasure waiting to give young people a future and a guaranteed job. Why there is not a line-up to get into this program is beyond my comprehension.

Educates employee

I am disappointed when I hear that colleges are fighting each year to secure apprenticeship enrolments. Employers need to train their staff, especially entry-level employees, so that they can perform to an accepted level of expertise and professionally represent their companies. Apprenticeship training actually does this for you. It educates the employee, using professional educators who are all current on industry standards. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) apprenticeship program should be our industry’s training program.

The other hidden treasure that is integral to developing and training young people and encouraging entry into our trade is the Adopt a High School Program. Developed in 2007, it essentially encourages LO members to become actively involved in their local high school horticultural programs by offering scholarships and hands-on involvement in the curriculum.

The idea behind the program is that young people are the future and they eventually go to work, regardless of whether they take post secondary education or not, so why not target students who have the potential of becoming future workers, managers and owners in the landscape industry? As well, students and their teachers can be future customers to our industry. Creating a better understanding of the green industry is always good for our business. The program concept is designed to educate high school students by providing them with basic information, opportunity and support, so that they may learn and become involved with industry co-op programs and some day join our industry.

Labour shortages

The green industry continues to suffer from labour shortages. We have competition from more than 150 registered trades. Attracting young people to the landscape and nursery business is extremely important. Getting high schools involved in horticulture and having young people understand the career opportunities are important ways to develop our future.

I cannot begin to tell you what a rewarding experience it was for me when I approached my local high school and offered a scholarship and expressed a sincere desire to become actively involved in the horticultural program. For the past five years my firm has been asked to take on co-op students from this program. The results have been most impressive. Close to half of our co-op students have stayed on to become full-time seasonal employees and most have taken apprenticeship training in order to complete the process. At the end of a three-year period (co-op and apprenticeship training), your company ends up with a well-trained and educated young employee.  What a great concept! The high school really appreciates us taking on their students and we end up with potential future employees.

Community recognition

There is also the benefit your company receives by being actively visible in your community, through recognition as an exclusive sponsor of the high school. The program is a win/win for everyone involved. The other exceptional aspect of the Adopt a High School and apprenticeship training programs is the fact that that there is no cost involved.

I agree with Terry, and am sure many others, that sometimes we don’t see something that is staring us in the face. These two programs are great examples of this. We must have more employers involved with these programs. It is a shame that this great training objective is somehow thought of as a BIG SECRET and that very few employers take part. Less than 200 apprentices are involved in these programs in an industry that has almost 100,000 employees.

Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity.
Phil Charal may be reached at pcharal@landscapeontario.com.