How to Recruit Young People to the Landscape Industry

When it comes to hiring more labor, NALP member Lisa L. Kuperus, vice president of Farmside Landscape & Design in Wantage, New Jersey, says it must be a multi-faceted and ongoing effort. In this tight labor market—and with the industry’s struggle to receive H-2B workers—there is no time to become complacent.

Lisa Kuperus talks about how to recruit young people
Miles & Lisa Kuperus, Farmside

“We absolutely must have multiple efforts going at once in order to compensate for the workforce shortage,” Kuperus says. “We’ve learned that in order to be successful, our hiring efforts must always be evolving.”

Kuperus says many of the company’s efforts are aimed to the youngest generation of workers—millennials and younger—in understanding they are the industry’s future.

Recruit Young People Tip #1: Make Use of Career Fairs

In addition to traveling to a career fair in New York state, Kuperus says her son—a current Rutgers University student—also performs some recruiting for the family business. Two graduates from Rutgers have since come to work for the company and are also now helping the company with recruiting efforts.

Though Kuperus has a personal connection with her son currently attending college (in Rutgers’ landscape industry program), she says it makes sense to find ways to meet with students who are actively looking for jobs post-college. That’s why the company plans to continue engaging in career fairs and similar opportunities even after their son has graduated.

Recruit Young People Tip #2: Demonstrate Community Involvement

The millennial generation has proven to be one that believes strongly in “giving back” and community involvement. As a company that has always been community-oriented, Kuperus has found it’s important to be more public about those commitments.

Similarly, many millennials care deeply about the environment and being good stewards, making this a very viable industry for them.

“There’s a strong stewardship aspect to what we do in the green industry,” Kuperus says. “It’s important to be more open about that. Farmside is also very committed to giving back. We support different volunteer projects and local youth programs.”

Recruit Young People Tip #3: Introduce Kids Early On

Though talking to elementary school and middle school kids about landscaping won’t necessarily benefit Farmside directly, it’s another thing Kuperus believes in to “help the industry as a whole.”

This year, Farmside will participate in bring your child to work day. The company will also be doing a hands-on planting project for employees’ children. Kuperus also loves the idea of speaking to local schools. She wants to get more involved in inspiring young people to pursue this career choice.

“Though it’s not a benefit we will see directly in our lifetime, I believe introducing younger children to landscaping is important for the future of our industry,” she says.

Recruit Young People Tip #4: Embrace the Youth

Finally, Kuperus also offers a word of advice on embracing young people. There is often negativity that surrounds talk of millennials or younger generations. But young people are the future of the industry. Kuperus says companies should think more about how to embrace them and less about pointing out every way in which their generation is different from the ones before it.

“They are who they are. We need to embrace them and find ways to attract them to our industry and our companies,” Kuperus says. “There might be differences in the way they do things or what they care about. But we can learn from each other. We’re doing ourselves a disservice if we’re not staying open-minded and finding ways to connect and work with them.”

2 thoughts on “How to Recruit Young People to the Landscape Industry

  1. I strongly encourage NALP members to contact their local high school that has a Agriculture, Food & Natural Resource – FFA Program. These students have good communication skills, work ethic and in many programs have training in horticulture. They can contact the National FFA via http://www.FFA.org to request the AFNR/FFA program director is for their state to find a local program they can contact. AFNR teachers are always looking for industry professionals to serve on their advisory committees, be guest speakers and be coaches for their FFA Nursery Landscape teams to compete at state level. Knowing your local AFNR-FFA teacher and the Co-Op Director is key to finding good seasonal help and future leaders for your business. As a high school ANFR-FFA teacher, each spring I train 16 year olds on how to safely operate Zero Turn Mowers, Walk Behind Commercial Mowers, blowers, string trimmers, edgers and aerators. They also are trained in blade cleaning, sharpening, balancing, blade changing and basic mower maintenance. When they are 14-15 years of age they are trained on 34 HP tractors and 2 wheel Trailers using the Purdue Gearing Up for Safety- US Dept of Labor Youth Training program and working with my local implement dealer. In Michigan, we have a state FFA zero turn mower safety test and obstacle course which Power Equipment Distributors-Weingartz supply the eXmark ZTRs for the contest. Have your NALP members contact the FFA state advisors to find out what is going on in their state.

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