Like a lot of landscape companies, the owners of L.G. Scott have struggled with finding good quality labor over the years. But with the introduction of the NALP’s Landscape Management Apprenticeship Program, they see hope on the horizon … maybe even a solution to labor challenges.
Luke Scott, who owns the business with his brother Larkin, says the Providence Forge, Virginia-based company, which does about $1 million a year in revenue, is excited about the possibilities that this program will offer when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified workers.
Currently, they have two apprentices enrolled and Scott says they’ll ideally look to enroll another two down the road (keeping it to two at a time from both a cost effectiveness and management viewpoint).
We asked Scott to share some of his thoughts on the program so far.
Resolving a Lack of Standards
Scott says one of the most frustrating landscape industry labor challenges is the lack of standards. Whereas other industries have well-established expectations and criteria that must be met, this is an area that is lacking for the landscape industry.
While it’s been a frustration in the past, it’s what makes Scott excited about the Landscape Management Apprenticeship Program—it establishes standards that did not previously exist.
“Prior to this program setting standards for what landscape apprentices must be able to do, you had to hire people based on their word and their references,” Scott says. “But references can be far from reliable when different companies have very different standards of what they view as quality work. So, you literally have no idea what you’re going to get with a new hire until you’re a few months in. But with this program we now have set standards that we can use to hire qualified people.”
Setting a Teaching Standard
Another aspect of the program that Scott says he’s excited about is the instruction. Since there are so many different methods of instruction—and everyone learns differently—Scott says he has found teaching a bit overwhelming in the past.
“Honestly, I’m a landscaper, not a teacher, and while I’ve certainly done my best at teaching our team over the years, I really appreciate that this program incorporates a strong learning and education component,” he says. “With this already structured, it takes the guesswork out of it for me.”
An Evolving Industry
Scott says in order for the industry to evolve in a positive way then companies need to be getting on board with programs such as this one. He’s heard a lot of griping over the years about a lack of industry standards and he feels this is finally a way to change that. But companies need to get involved.
“If you are a company that has at least four people in the field, then you need to look into this,” he urges. “There is a lot of complaining about labor challenges: hiring and standards and qualifications. But we finally have an opportunity to change all of that. If every landscape company took two people and enrolled them as apprentices, imagine the difference it would make to our industry as a whole. You’d suddenly have an industry that is full of qualified workers.”
In terms of whether investing in producing qualified workers worries Scott when it comes to people leaving, he provides a resounding “no.”
“There’s no question that going through this program makes people more marketable—but that doesn’t worry me,” he says. “Honestly, we should be producing qualified workers. It’s helping people start to view landscaping as more than just a job but an actual career—one that can be lifelong. While I obviously want the really talented team members to stick with us, it’s still a win for the industry as a whole to continue to produce better workers and it’s something I see us continuing to invest in going forward.”