June 15, 2011
By Sally Harvey CLT, CLP
Education and Labour Development Department

Sally HarveyLandscape Ontario, in partnership with Humber College and Ontario Parks Association, successfully achieved the support of the Government of Ontario to obtain a Market Partnership Grant. Through Employment Ontario, the project is entitled, ‘Identifying Labour Issues and Challenges in the Landscape Horticulture Industry.’

As one of the most significant contributors to the Ontario and Canadian economy at present, the horticulture (landscape) industry is expected to double in size within the next decade. A significant challenge to attract workers in the horticultural trades already exists. With the baby boomer cohort heading toward retirement, and gardening and landscaping considered one of the top five areas of interest among retirees, the industry will experience rapid economic growth, coupled with a severe shortage of trained workers.

We need to determine a plan of action to identify gaps in training, forecasting long- and short-term employment opportunities and encourage workers to consider entry into the horticulture industry.  

A well developed strategy in the form of a master Human Resources Plan is critical to the future growth of the industry and the continued and robust economic growth in this province.

Our project with Humber and OPA involves six steps that should guide our strategies and provide tools to increase the number of skilled workers in the landscape horticulture industry. This is intended to help relieve the growing gap in skilled labour availability in Ontario. The six steps are:
  1. Survey the entire industry in Ontario (employers, certified individuals, apprentices and journey persons, municipalities and educators). We will encourage members and non-members of Landscape Ontario to complete the survey that corresponds to their role in the industry so that our data is complete and accurately identifies the barriers to skills development.
  2. The survey results will guide the development and implementation of a communications and awareness campaign. This will result in the identification of barriers to industry and stakeholder focus groups in four regions across the province (Ottawa, Sudbury, Toronto and London). These four, half-day facilitated brainstorming sessions will engage industry and stakeholders in a process that will create strategies to remove barriers to skills development.
  3. With the guidance of a human resources consultant, we will develop a plan to educate and promote professional human resource management within the horticultural sector to gain an industry-wide competitive advantage.
  4. A consultant will develop a human resource strategy that provides tools and resources to educate and inspire effective human resource management systems to help employers introduce and maintain professional recruitment, retention and skills development. This tool kit, or plan will be tested in a pilot project in the central region.
  5. Our marketing consultant will develop a marketing plan that will communicate the skills development opportunities in apprenticeship, certification and other training in order to generate participation. The marketing plan, will include a cost/benefit tool.
  6. The final report will provide a detailed summary of the research carried out and recommendations for implementation. The industry and all skilled trades education and training delivery agents will benefit from the project with new and/or enhanced awareness of the challenges that exist and tools to facilitate skills development and increase skilled labour in the landscape horticulture industry

Expected results

  • Understand the barriers to skilled labour development and increase participation in programs, including apprenticeship, certification and technical seminars.
  • Improve existing training programs and graduate success in the following programs, as a result of a human resource capacity strategic plan: Certificate of Apprenticeship, Certificate of Qualification, Certified Horticultural Technician, and Certified Landscape Technician.  
  • Improve communication between educational institutions and industry.  
  • Connect employers across Ontario and increase awareness of resources and tools available to encourage development of human resource strategies.
  • Increase the number of skilled labour to the industry now and in the future.
Landscape Ontario and its partners are enthusiastically coordinating the project. In the coming months, the industry and stakeholders will be invited to participate in the survey and the awareness/communications sessions. We encourage your input and participation, as we endeavour to develop solutions for our skilled labour challenges.
Contact Sally Harvey should you have any questions at sharvey@landscapontario.com.