Summer is a great media show for landscaping and horticulture, Tim Howell says. “We should seize the opportunity to promote our industry as a career choice.”
I’m writing this in late June and feeling excited, as horticulture is firmly in the public eye. Aided by countless landscaping shows on television and lots of positive coverage throughout the media. Horticultural shows and a run of great park weather, put the industry in a good light. This, paired with a focus on the benefits that our industry has a hand in, puts horticulture and landscaping back in season.
Horticulture brings reward and happiness to so many people. For those who work in and around the industry, and enjoy the outdoor spaces we create. So why is it that we have many unfilled vacancies in various areas of the country? And why don’t many young people, or careers advisors see this as a long-term career of choice?
Horticulture as a Career
According to The Telegraph, horticulture does not feature in top career aims for primary school children. Becoming a sports star ranks highest (money, fame etc). Nor does it feature if you search for ‘best jobs’ on the internet where marketing seems to feature at the top. But, there is hope; a search for ‘happiest job’ will lead to research on career satisfaction by the UK Cabinet Office. This shows where being a manager or proprietor in agriculture or horticulture ranks as the third most satisfying role.
Of course, money has a lot to do with career choice. Horticulture is not the most well paid industry. It is hard work, the hours can be long and there are many days when working outside in the wet and cold can lead you to question your choice of employment. We’re also not a visible or well understood industry. Often it’s too fragmented for people to see what we’re all about. The term landscaping itself can cover many different roles, and horticulture covers endless possible roles. Despite this, there are still many positives. This is an industry where anyone can thrive. There are plenty of opportunities for those wanting to forge a career in the sector.
Back to the Floor
At Mitie we recently ran a ‘back to the floor’ initiative. This involved 100 senior people within the business spending a day working on the front line. I spent the day with one of our corporate catering teams. It was interesting to learn and understand the challenges faced by colleagues working in other sectors. The feedback from those who spent time in our landscaping business was overwhelmingly positive. Many have asked to come back and spend more time with us! Our industry is so attractive and provides a great place to work, and a fulfilling career.
So what can we do about this? We all need to take action within our businesses to attract people into the industry and keep them in it. It’s crucial to commit to train and develop staff at all levels – and provide rewards for strong performance. We need to ensure our staff are safe while at work and have the tools they need to do their job. We would like the people we develop to stay with us for years to come, or even take new opportunities to develop themselves. Yet, perpetuate what they have learned so we can discover a new generations of landscapers and horticulturists.
By working together, we can encourage an industry wide approach to career progression and enhancement. This improves the attractiveness of landscaping as an exciting career choice for the next generation.
Tim Howell has worked in the landscape industry for more than 30 years. Managing director of Mitie Landscapes Ltd, Tim Howell has worked at the company for the past 15 years. Mitie Landscapes employs more than 800 people across the UK.
Share your thoughts with Tim Howell at: Tim.Howell@mitie.com