March 15, 2009

By Sally Harvey CLT, CLP
Education and Labour Development Department

Sally HarveyAs many know, the Certified Horticultural Technician (CHT) designation went through some major changes during 2008. These changes came about following an evaluation of the test, and by putting that test through an Occupational Analysis (OA). The process revealed that improvements were in order.

The next step in the test revision process was to ensure that the material tested corresponded with the real-world tasks that a technician performs in the workplace. It was also important that the testing be an accurate measurement of the minimum standards established in the OA.

This work was an industry-driven effort. It began with a group of experts who identified the real tasks of a landscape technician. The categories include:
Both the installation and maintenance modules have been split, resulting in the following certifications: Hardscape Installation, Turf Maintenance, Ornamental Maintenance and Irrigation. The industry task force confirmed that the elements common to all industry technical certifications are safety, communication, motor vehicles, math and reporting. The new common core will be written and will focus on only these areas.

Changes to the certification test

  • Comprehension: Each of the five certifications have a specific series of written exams. Some problems, such as irrigation identification and pruning, have been changed from hands-on problems to part of the written exam. For all other problems, where the judge asked questions requiring a verbal response, the verbal portion has been moved to the written exam.
  • Calculations: Several hands-on problems required the candidate to do complete mathematical calculations. These questions will be moved to the written comprehension sections of the written exam.
  • Written exam length - The new written exams will be longer, due to the changes listed above.

As a result of dividing the maintenance and installation modules, the hands-on portion can now be completed in less than four hours. The new certifications will test a narrower scope of material that is more relevant to the occupation of the landscape technician. Technical and safety components have been re-weighted for all hands-on tests. Prior to the test, candidates will be provided with a clear breakdown of the technical component and the safety component of each problem.

Some candidates will find that they have been awarded one of the new certifications, but are maybe one or two problems short of receiving the second certification. The decision to finish the second certification will be left to the candidates, however, they will be encouraged to complete the remainder.

Those who still require one or more stations, or who have yet to complete this designation, will be contacted by letter this spring to notify them which stations remain outstanding, as per the new test designation requirements. Please go to the following web link for test dates, registration forms for re-tests and full tests. This year all registration forms must be completed in full by the applicant. He must identify which manuals and tests he intends to challenge. Payment in full must be made prior to being sent the test confirmation package, and to access the test day.

New this year is the opportunity to challenge the written test in full or re-test segments during the winter months, and then attend the official test days in Ottawa and in Milton for the practical sections. If this is of interest, register today at the above-mentioned link.

Early season orientation

The 2009 landscape season is just around the corner. It’s a time for all employers, managers and supervisors to prepare for both new and existing staff to return. One of the first steps to ensure a successful start is to make sure planning and preparation has been done in advance. Below, you will find a brief checklist that you may wish to refer to and build on as you prepare:

  • Health and safety committee, or safety representative meet and develop strategies and goals.
  • Update safety policies to be read by all staff, and ensure you operate in compliance with MOL, WSIB, etc.
  • Ensure employee contracts and handbooks are ready.
  • Request driver abstracts for all drivers.
  • Copy operators’ training manuals for equipment and tools (we always keep the original in the office).
  • Arrange WHMIS training for all staff.
  • Check all trucks and workplaces and have new CVORs.
  • Update vehicle and trailer inspection forms, hours of work forms, fire extinguisher, a first aid kit and MSDS sheets.
  • Ensure all supervisors/staff have up-to-date first aid training.
  • Service all tools and equipment.
  • Order uniforms.
  • Order and prepare all PPE (personal protective equipment).
  • Bring training records up-to-date for existing staff and prepare files for new employees.
  • Organize the annual orientation day and make sure the agenda is set.
  • Call on Farm Safety for  selection of posters, stickers, training manuals, WHMIS training, etc.
  • Set the weekly tailgate safety meeting schedule for the entire season, with all attendance sign-offs prepared in advance.


New strategy for job and career fairs

All successful businesses see priorities change. This is no different for our department, as we make changes such as how we support career and job fairs. In the past, Landscape Ontario did its best to attend as many as possible in order to market our industry as a viable and challenging career path. What we often found was that the people attending job fairs are ‘really’ looking for jobs. So, now we are offering our members the opportunity to attend job fairs.

LO will continue our support by notifying members of the fairs through our weekly e-news update (sent by e-mail to every member company) as well as offering the short term use of a table top display, along with handouts to augment your business cards, employment applications and company brochures, so that you may stand face-to-face with potential employees. Should you wish to attend a job fair, the e-news update will direct you to a contact person. Please confirm your attendance with this contact person in advance in order to avoid disappointment.  

Sally Harvey may be reached by email at