March 15, 2016
Choose Your Path: Attracting future members to our profession
Canada Blooms is the perfect venue for young people to get inspired by our profession.
By Scott Wentworth

Choose Your PathLike most of us, I loved the outdoors as a child and teenager. As a baby boomer, our days of youth were composed of large groups of school and neighbourhood friends that were outside whenever we weren’t in school. The proverbial “come home when the streetlights come on” was the universal rule signaling the end of our outdoor activity. We truly lived outside, and were exposed to the natural world around us for a significant amount of time every day.

I lived for the annual school field trips to conservation areas where a naturalist explained the various plants and animals and their inter-woven relationships that formed the ecosystem in the world just beyond our suburban lives. I was fortunate to learn a love of gardening at the knees of my grandparents, and was always given an area of my own to plan, plant and care for myself. This developed into caring for the gardens of family friends and neighbours, and the reward of praise for a garden well-tended.

In considering career options, I had never been exposed to the landscape profession, despite my love of gardening. I felt there must be employment in the realm of forestry or those conservation officers opening up the knowledge of the natural world around us.  I was extremely fortunate to live in the neighbourhood of the former Leslie L. Solty and Sons head office and garden centre. An after-school job there led to the late Leslie Solty taking the time to open my eyes to the world of landscaping, which set my professional life in motion.  

Many of us in the landscape profession have had similar experiences: people, life circumstances, or opportunities that brought us in contact with this profession and the meaningful contributions it brings to the lives of others. In considering the next generation that will follow us, we need to intentionally educate them to this profession, and the great variety of disciples within it. This year’s Canada Blooms display, “Choose Your Path,” designed by the team at Brydges Landscape Architecture, is intentionally designed to educate and inspire this new generation. The display features a wide variety of the elements that comprise our profession. Some of these are obvious, such as landscape design, construction and maintenance. The disciplines of stone masonry, landscape carpentry, horticulture, and turf care are highlighted, as well as landscape lighting, tree care, ecological benefits and water features. All of this is set within the context of an entertaining garden that includes a wine cellar and wine garden.

Combined, the intention is to demonstrate the wide-ranging interests and skills that comprise our profession. It educates the next generation as to what career paths the landscape profession offers.

For many visitors to Canada Blooms, this will be their first exposure to the impact that we make in the lives of our clients and the communities we serve. With our always urgent labour shortage, the need to educate the public as to what we do, and the professional opportunities we collectively offer, is vitally important. Doing so in a creative way adds to the appeal for upcoming generations.

One of the best take-aways from Congress was the suggestion that in attracting young people to our profession, a great question to present to them is, “What problems do you want to solve in your career?” This upcoming generation wants to make a difference.  To attract them, we need to provide them with the opportunity to do so. We need to educate them as to how significant those opportunities are.  

Landscape Ontario launched a new campaign at Congress:
We need YOU to make us better...
We are the members of Landscape Ontario who come together to become better people, run better businesses and participate in building a better community.

This important campaign applies to those we want to attract, as well as those in the profession who are not members of Landscape Ontario. We need this next generation’s contagious enthusiasm, energy and interest to continue to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. Landscape Ontario’s display at Canada Blooms, “Choose Your Path,” will be the starting point in the lives of many who choose to bring their abilities and passion to our profession.