April 5, 2018

By Warren Patterson
LO President
Warren Patterson

In the first three months of my presidency I have received many calls, emails and been engaged in conversations with members on the labour shortage we all are facing. Is it a shortage or is our profession simply not attractive enough for people to want to enter or remain a part of?
I believe there are five factors impacting the supply of labour to any profession:
  1. Type of work performed.
  2. Career opportunities.
  3. Earnings.
  4. Work/life balance.
  5. Education and experience requirements to enter.
Each of these factors must be in equilibrium, otherwise a shortage of available labour will result.
Monster.ca, a popular online jobs website, lists the following professions that are in need of a larger workforce:
  1. Highly-skilled medical jobs, such as nurses, doctors and specialists.
  2. Scientists and mathematicians.
  3. Skilled trades, such as electricians, carpenters, machinists, mechanics, welders and plumbers.
  4. Engineering and architecture.
  5. Information Technology, such as computer specialists, IT analysts, software developers, programmers and database administrators.
  6. Executives.
  7. Highly-skilled technicians, such as health, telecommunications and environmental technicians.
  8. Transportation, such as drivers.
  9. Construction and extraction workers in mining.
  10. Community and social service workers, such as counselors, therapists and social workers.
In each one of these professions you can imagine what the challenges are. It is interesting that some of the professions on the list you would think wouldn’t have difficulties attracting candidates with the high earning potential and career opportunities. But the barriers to enter, namely education requirements and long work hours, steer people away from these professions.
For others, the amount of manual labour involved and low pay may be unattractive to those looking to enter those professions.
For a couple of years, there has been a shortage of school bus drivers for the Toronto District School Board. I recently heard of a Toronto school bus company putting out-of-town drivers up in a hotel during the week just so they would have enough drivers. You can understand the measures they have taken to find a possible solution. Who could afford to live in Toronto and work as a school bus driver based on the earnings that are provided?
I believe the landscape profession is experiencing an applicant shortage primarily due to the nature of the work involved and the earnings potential. On the plus side, we do provide a good work/life balance, and great career opportunities.
Our education requirements are not onerous, especially since most learning takes place on-the-job.
As a profession, we must start looking at solving each of the limiting factors together, otherwise we will never alleviate the problem of a shortage of applicants. In upcoming articles I will discuss the opportunities and challenges we have within our grasp that can work towards attracting more applicants to our profession.
Warren Patterson may be reached at warrenpatterson@barriegardencentre.com