Europe, with its long tradition of craft guilds (masons, printers, textile workers, and tanners for example) that formed in the late Middle Ages, developed the practice of apprenticeships. An apprentice provided inexpensive labor to his master in exchange for formal training in a certain craft. Most started between the ages of 10 to 15 years old and would train for approximately seven years. From there, an apprentice could become a journeyman who would move from shop to shop to gain additional experience from different masters. If the individual was good enough, and few were, he could become a master and open his own shop.
Sound familiar? One could argue that our industry’s roots run deep in the apprenticeship mold. Just think how many PLANET members started out by working for another company to learn how to install, maintain, and care for landscapes before starting their own companies. No matter what their educational background, most landscape contractors and lawn care operators will admit that this experience was absolutely vital to their subsequent success.
The flip side, of course, is that our version of an apprenticeship program doesn’t have the means to keep less-than-qualified (unprofessional) owners and operators from participating in our industry. Indeed, a business person in the Middle Ages had little if any competition compared to what our industry is facing. In addition to the proverbial low-baller, we’re also in the midst of an industrywide recalibration where customers are no longer willing to pay yesterday’s price for our services. It’s an ongoing challenge, today, to draw a straight line between the value of the service we provide and the price. With so many service providers to choose from, informed customers (and they’re the ones we all want to nurture) should be looking for the professional, the company that can stand behind its work with experienced, trained employees.
That’s where PLANET comes in, with its many resources, and yes, with its newly branded certification program — Landscape Industry Certified. International Certification Council (ICC) Chair Michael Becker, Landscape Industry Certified Manager, talks about this new branding initiative in this month’s issue of PLANET News. Thanks to the work of the ICC, we have tremendous opportunity to create a renaissance within our industry to (1) raise awareness among customers about the value of retaining true professionals to design, install, and maintain their landscapes and (2) raise awareness among landscape contractors and lawn care operators about the importance of having Landscape Industry Certified employees on their staffs. When the demand is there, when we have enough certified professionals to supply the demand, watch out!
As Becker points out in the article, getting the certification message to customers and service providers who may not understand its value requires a grassroots effort by PLANET members. The certification brand encompasses all certification designations within PLANET, and it’s easy to explain — Landscape Industry Certified service providers are experienced in their field, are well-trained, and, like their predecessors from the Middle Ages, are true professionals.
Let’s work together to market this valuable message to customers and to other green industry service providers.
Bill Hildebolt, Ph.D., Landscape Industry Certified Manager & Technician