November 15, 2017
By Terry Murphy CLM

Terry MurphyWhen reviewing my emails this morning, I saw a message featuring Nathan Helder, Landscape Ontario show committee chair, mentioning the annual trade show and conference, Congress, is just around the corner. Where did the summer go? Upon opening my mail, I then discovered LO’s 2017-2018 Professional Development Seminar Guide, listing the many training and educational opportunities held across the province over the next several months. These incidents prompted me to reflect back on the state of industry education some 25 years ago, when I had just started my job at Landscape Ontario.

Winter training was developed

During my first couple of years at Landscape Ontario, I talked to several senior member companies about education and training. We had some differences of opinion on what the industry needed. It wasn’t about the need for education and training itself, or the content required, but on the delivery method. Most older members wanted two- to four weeks of concentrated training in certain areas. We already had the Apprenticeship Program for that type of training. My thinking was that younger employees had trouble sitting for long periods of time and therefore wanted short, concise training that focused more on doing that listening. I remember having this discussion with my boss, Tony DiGiovanni, LO executive director, and he wisely suggested the only way to proceed was to run some shorter training courses over the winter to test out my assumptions. We went ahead and built three training rooms in the warehouse at the Milton site, and LO’s Winter Workshop Series was born.

The seminars were very successful because they not only filled the need for education, they were also an enormous value (because of their relatively low cost), contained relevant content, and many included a practical component as well. All that, plus coffee and lunch for under $100 per one-day seminar. There was no better value around and the training became extremely popular.

We later branded them as “Professional Development,” and the courses have expanded to include other areas such as safety, business management, accounting, strategic planning, supervisor training and more. Over 20 years later, these seminars continue to attract over 1,500 participants over the winter months.

Continuing education has great value

What is the value in education and training? For an employee, they gain a perspective on the subject matter, get a good grounding on technical knowledge, listen to and talk to other participants on the subject, learn about safety and safe working procedures, take away key literature, and get any of their questions answered. Employees feel a sense of pride and self-improvement that will help them to develop their career. For the employer, they are helping to develop a better employee, who learns the correct way of producing quality work. Better workmanship and better quality also means fewer technical errors and jobsite corrections which saves time and money.

Education in action

In the 1990s we had a serious problem where Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premium rates for rate group 190 (landscaping) were increasing at an annual rate of almost one per cent. For employers, we had to do something to keep costs down and reverse the trend, with WSIB premium rates going from five to almost 10 percent within five years. LO developed a strategic plan based on education and training and began implementation in 1995. The plan included a dedicated safety message via Horticulture Review magazine, educational seminars with WSIB, nearly mandatory safety education and training for landscape companies, safety training within the Apprenticeship Program, promotion of education and safety via the Winter Workshops and the creation of LO/WSIB Safety Groups. It was an all-out educational effort by Landscape Ontario and member firms. The result was a reduction in the WSIB rate for landscaping from nearly 10 per cent, back down to 3.5 per cent within five years. This was a tremendous industry effort which saved employers millions of dollars. This result was accomplished solely by education and training.

Education for your employees

We’ve all heard the very true expression, “You are never too old to learn.” Employees are very open to learning, but employers must first take the lead. Why not sit down with each of your employees and go through LO’s Professional Development Seminar Guide to develop a program of two or three seminars for each person for this winter. You will gain a more proficient, improved, more productive employee as a result. Members of the Canadian Fencing Industry Association (CFIA), and registered members of the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) also qualify for the reduced, member rate — another benefit to belonging to a professional organization.


Everyone can benefit from continued education and training. The entire industry also benefits from individuals improving their technical expertise and how to make the most of new technologies and methods. Seminars and courses offered in landscaping are geared for all levels: from a new employee to senior management. Another excellent training program is the Horticultural Technician Apprenticeship Program. Through support from the government, participating in the program costs practically nothing, and actually has a cash incentive of $4,000 for each employee and tax benefits for the employer. It is currently offered in the off-season at five colleges across the province. Space is limited, so you must register now. To find out the many ways the program can help your business, or with help through the registration process, contact the LO office. The Apprenticeship Program and other training opportunities offered by LO are a tremendous value. Start planning your winter training opportunities now.
Terry Murphy can be reached at