Rex Bishop is joining the NALP team as the Director of Technical Education. He worked in the nursery industry before teaching horticultural and landscaping at the college level for more than 25 years, most recently serving as the Vice President for Economic Development at Chattahoochee Technical College.
Bishop is known to many in the industry for his volunteer work with the National Collegiate Landscape Competition and commitment to workforce and education issues through the association.
We are excited to be able to share Rex’s knowledge with NALP members, so we put him through a little Q&A so you could learn more about him – including his favorite plant varieties!
Q. Could you describe your career path?
A. My career path like most have had twists and turns. My father taught high school agriculture/horticulture and I lived on the school farm with a nursery out the front door and a orange grove out the back. So I was exposed early on. First I worked in the Wholesale Nursery and Retail Garden Center segments, then spent several years working for a large company doing landscape installation and lawn care; all while attending college, getting degrees in horticulture and a MBA. After working in the industry I taught High School Horticulture, then Horticulture at the Technical College before moving into administrative roles first as an academic dean, then as Vice President of Academics and then Vice President of Economic Development. During my academic years I have continued to work closely with the industry being involved with the local and state associations, as well as working and consulting with several companies.
Q. What have you liked most about teaching?
A. I am passionate about teaching and sharing knowledge. I love to find the right ways to motivate others to success. The joy of teaching is seeing them “get it” and taking that knowledge to their customers. The greatest joy is seeing those former students be successful in the industry: owning their own companies or moving up the ladder to success. That is why teachers teach. There is no bigger thrill than being in front of a group of students and sharing knowledge.
Q. What do you like most about working in the landscape and horticulture industries?
A. The industry cares about it’s people and their customers. They are willing to share with each other so the industry as a whole gets better. And we can watch the fruits of our labor truly grow and develop before our eyes. Forever changing, forever challenging and always pleasurable. It is my passion. A great bunch of people, that I am proud to work with.
Q. This one is tough…what are your three favorite landscape plants?
A. Yes it is tough. I am a plant guy. Naming only three varieties or cultivars is impossible. But I can name three species or groups. Tea olives (Osmanthus fragrans) are a real favorite. They have a great aroma from those flowers and are easy to care for. Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum) have a wealth of cultivars available in all shapes and sizes, and foliage colors. My garden has about forty cultivars.
And Hydrangeas (Hydrangea spp.). Again a wealth of color and types, bringing colorful joy to the garden. To me all are a must have for any garden.
Q. What do you wish that industry employers knew about recruiting students out of college programs?
A. There is a wealth of talent eager to learn more and do more. They are looking for opportunities to learn, grow and achieve in their chosen profession. And the industry can grab the cream of the crop by getting involved in the local college program. Be a guest speaker, help train students, offer internships, bring by a pizza or two. And remember, often that average student makes a great employee. You don’t have to hire just the “A” students. Those that get average grades often outwork and outperform in the real world.
But get involved! You could have a real pipeline of workers with a little involvement at the college or even high school programs.
Q. What do you think colleges and students should focus on more when preparing themselves for careers in the industry?
A. In addition to learning as much horticulture/landscaping as possible, students and colleges should focus on leadership skills, teamwork, communication, customer service, problem solving and critical thinking. We need well rounded graduates: passionate and serious about their careers.
Q. How are you hoping to contribute to the industry with this new position?
A. Well, first I am passionate about horticulture/landscape education. So I will bring a lot of passion and energy to the organization and it’s members. I think we need to set the bar high as professionals. When we do that, the public respects us more and is willing to pay for the value we provide. I hope to increase the educational programming so we can raise the bar even higher than it is today. We have to set ourselves apart as professionals, and we do that through education and knowledge. I hope we can bring more programs to the local/regional level to give members a chance to get more from their association, and over time bring valuable online content to our members. Just like our members need to add value to their customers, we need to add value to our membership. That knowledge isn’t always just landscape knowledge. It is those things mentioned earlier, leadership, communication, teamwork, customer service etc.
I am excited to be a part of this industry and will continue to work to improve our educational endeavors. Knowledge is power.
Rex can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.