September 15, 2016
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director

Tony DiGiovanniFor over 27 years, whenever I ask members what their number one priority is, a perennial answer is “it is difficult to find good employees.” This is the same answer across North America. Landscape Ontario has dealt with this issue since the beginning of its formation. Our pioneers worked hard to shape horticultural education and training. Many of us (including me) have been beneficiaries of their enormous effort. How? Landscape Ontario helped to develop:
  • The Ontario Diploma of Horticulture offered by the University of Guelph. (This was the first correspondence course available to professionals).
  • The horticultural technician and technology programs across the province (starting with Humber and expanding to Algonquin, Niagara, St. Clair, Fanshawe, Durham and other colleges).
  • The Specialist High School Major program. (Started as a pilot in Oakville and has spread to 28 high schools).
  • The Green Industries Curriculum. (Available in 80 high schools).
  • Pre-apprenticeship, co-op and certificate programs across the province.
  • Industry certification programs.
  • The Horticultural Technician Apprenticeship Program.

The vision and hard work of our earlier members made a huge difference and our present leaders continue their legacy. Even though all of the programs are excellent, the Apprenticeship Program stands out. The benefits for the employer and employee are so outstanding; I consider it a gift to our profession.

Employer benefits

  • The program provides a structured way to train your own employees. This on-the-job process fits what employers already do. As a company owner, you are responsible to “sign off” on a list of skills.
  • It allows you to offer internship and career development as part of the job. Career development and progressive advancement are huge recruitment tools.
  • The Apprenticeship Program helps you retain good employees. Rather than laying employees off during the winter, the government will pay for your apprentices to go to school. It is an amazing deal. Even if you need your staff to be available for snow operations, “snow day” arrangements can be made.
  • The program helps to develop the competency of your team. There is no downside to having more knowledgeable and skilled employees. It reflects well on you.
  • A highly-motivated and skilled workforce will return greater profits.
  • Your company’s professional image is enhanced because you can let your customers know you employ apprentices.
  • If you are going to lay off employees anyway, why not register them as apprentices? They are way more likely to come back to work for you if you do.
  • You can help change the lives of your employees by exposing them to the pride, enthusiasm and positive energy that comes from achievement.
  • It demonstrates you are a caring employer.
  • There are financial incentives available. To me financial incentives are great, but the recruitment, retention and skills development benefits far outweigh financial incentives.

Employee benefits

  • Knowledge and skill breeds enthusiasm, pride and positive attitudes which will make your work life more enriching.
  • Apprenticeship gives you a challenging and rewarding goal. Achievement of the goal will enhance your professionalism.
  • It gives you the ability to learn on-the-job while you are being paid. In winter, the program pays your wages while you take the in-school portion.
  • Mastery of a skill is a huge motivator.
  • Family and friends will seek the skills and knowledge you master because most people need good landscape and garden advice. You will become known as the “expert.”
  • Enhanced skills will make you more valuable, therefore positively impacting job satisfaction and security.
  • Tool and travel allowances are available as part of the program.
  • It provides a path to a rewarding career. As a horticultural technician, your knowledge and skills enhance society in many ways. You will be part of a profession that provides economic, environmental, social, recreational, health and therapeutic benefits. You will be in the business of enhancing lives and leaving a positive legacy through what you do.

The Apprenticeship Program is a gift to our profession and to you as an employer or employee. It helps to change the “I can’t find good employees” comment to “I have amazing employees because I am able to recruit, train and retain them using the Apprenticeship Program.”

Please contact Jeff Hicks at or myself to find out more. We are here to help.
Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at