September 15, 2011
One of the most thorough surveys of labour issues and challenges facing the landscape horticulture industry was produced this summer.

The stakeholder survey, prepared for Landscape Ontario by the George Morris Centre in Guelph, was funded by the Ontario government.

“As stated by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities a strong and modern skilled trades sector is vital to Ontario’s economic prosperity,” says LO’s Education, Labour Development and Membership Department manager Sally Harvey.

Distinct surveys were developed for each stakeholder group, which included employers, employees, students/youth and educators. Responses to many of the questions showed little variance among the groups surveyed. However, employees tended to be more negative in their comments about training opportunities, than other groups.

Conducted online, a total of 359 owners and managers answered the survey questions, while 151 employees took part, along with 26 youth and 58 educators.

A number of key areas were named as the overall objectives of the project. One of these is determining specific issues and identifying the barriers toward skilled labour availability and expansion in the landscape horticulture industry. Other objectives include increasing knowledge and awareness of trade specific skills development opportunities in Ontario, identifying the barriers for apprenticeship, certification training and skills, and providing a foundation for the development of human resources capacity plan specifically for the horticulture industry. The project will also develop and circulate an employer human resources toolkit to improve recruitment and retention practices.

Each group surveyed indicated that there was a lack awareness of programs and courses available in the industry. Surprisingly, the exception was students currently enrolled in landscape horticulture programs.

All groups suggested better advertising is needed to make employers, workers and potential students aware of training opportunities. All groups surveyed indicated interest in a single point of data, such as an online database, to provide information on all training opportunities. Those working in the industry also indicated a need for increased communication between employees and employers on the training opportunities available.

Wages a factor

When asked about the shortage of skilled labour in the landscape horticulture industry, the most common factor mentioned was wages. It was often noted that both actual wages, and perceived low wages prevented youth from choosing careers in the industry.

Responses to potential access barriers varied among the groups, but generally location and other costs were considered the greatest barriers that prevented training. Employers generally felt that the time of year and location were the greatest barriers. Employees indicted indirect costs of training such as transportation and loss of income as the greatest barriers, with time of year as the second more important. Students responded strongly that location was the greatest barrier. And educators felt that lack of awareness of programs and discouragement from parents and guidance counselors were the most important barriers.

Curricula varied widely from program to program, which creates a significant difference in skill sets acquired by new graduates. Specific skills’ training was identified by each group as generally lacking and there were frequent requests for advanced training for experienced workers in the industry.

Overwhelmingly employers, employees, students and educators see a need for more business and management training. This is particularly important given that most employees and students in the industry plan to own and manage their own business.

Many respondents noted that Landscape Ontario does a good job of informing the sector about opportunities. Others mentioned that they stay on top of this by reading various trade publications, such as Horticulture Review, and participating in industry trade shows.

Some suggested making membership in LO mandatory, therefore all companies would receive information regarding training. Another suggestion was to establish an employee membership group. LO could contact employees directly through mail-outs or emails.

To review the entire survey results, go to, look for the Labour Market Partnership survey.

Following publication of the survey results, Landscape Ontario, in partnership with Humber College and the Ontario Parks Association, conducted a series of Ontario Labour Market Partnership (LMP) workshops around the the province. It is expected that the final employer toolkit and a capacity plan will be made available online to all industry members and partners by January of 2012.