The green industry's next generation

Departments - Editor’s Insight

January 3, 2018

When I was in high school way back in the late ’90s, I knew my next step was going to college. That’s just what you did at my school. You received a scholarship or took out loans (I did the latter), and spent the next four years studying a major.

Then, hopefully, you’d receive that oh-so precious piece of paper from a university which was proof you were ready to enter the workforce and make money (after paying back all that debt).

But that trend seems to be changing.

Both PBS and CNBC recently published articles about how attending a 4-year college is becoming less popular. You can find those articles at the following two links – and

The good news is the green industry can and is capitalizing on this change in thinking.

Both the National Association of Landscape Professionals and local landscaping associations are reaching out to high school students and touting the strengths of a career in the green industry. You can read more about that in our cover story starting on page 36.

What makes this so encouraging is the industry is making a concerted effort to tap into a population with no bias.

I always wondered why this push wasn’t made more often, and I’m sure it was in certain areas and I missed it, but I heard one reason why last summer. A state association executive director told me that the association was so focused on making sure the members were stable after the Great Recession that there was no time to focus on the future. Now, the association can make that effort.

What makes this so encouraging is the industry is tapping into a population with no bias. A 16-year-old may have some idea of career aspirations, but most still are undecided or not fully committed to their dream job.

Some may not even know that a landscaping company has more to offer than a bunch of people riding mowers and cleaning up leaves.

This type of outreach also gives business owners a chance to show a younger generation that landscaping companies run like professional operations. Your pitch doesn’t have to be “come work for a landscaping company.” It can be “come work for a great company that performs landscaping services.”

Start thinking about how you can position your company as a career option. Reach out to a local high school to setup a time to make a presentation to a class, hold a career day at your location, work with a local landscaping association on an event; there’s a number of ways to make a difference. You may get more skepticism from the parents, so appealing to mom or dad is just as important.

This won’t solve all the hiring problems in the industry or the negative perceptions, but it’s better than watching even more talented kids succeed in another industry. – Brian Horn