One way to help deal with the ongoing labor shortage is by investing your time in the future and speaking to students about the lawn care and landscape industry.
“Even though it makes you nervous it’s actually a lot of fun and very rewarding,” says Chris Joyce, president of The Joyce Companies, based in Marstons Mills, Massachusetts.
Joyce speaks to local schools and the college he attended. Since he started speaking to students, he says there’s been a shift in the perception of the industry, and it’s helped attract a number of students to his company.
“Guidance counselors are dealing with these students and are starving for information,” Joyce says. “If any of us reached out to our local schools or trade schools to the guidance department and said you’d be willing to come in and talk about our industry that they want you there in a second.”
Marty Grunder, president and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co. based in Miamisburg, Ohio, encourages other companies to reach out to their local high schools and colleges to share what they’ve learned since graduating.
“We all have a responsibility to create awareness for the industry and get this to being an industry that people realize is a lot more than mowing grass,” Grunder says.
Below are some tips on how to make the most of speaking to students when you are presenting in person.
Teddy Russell, CEO of Russell Landscape Group, based in Sugar Hill, Georgia, says a typical format for presenting in person is in a classroom setting with a PowerPoint presentation.
When it comes to keeping students’ attention, Russell advises making lots of eye contact, singling out the sleepers and remembering what it was like when you were a student and relating to them. Joyce and Russell both say making jokes can keep students paying attention.
“You got to keep them engaged,” Grunder says. “A poll, a question, a story, a quick video, a funny gif, something to get people moving and enjoying listening to you.”
Grunder also suggests reaching out to students prior on LinkedIn, if you know who you’ll be talking to.
“Probably 98 percent of your reach outs may not end in a successful hire or you getting somebody to be an intern,” Grunder says. “But if you don’t do anything, what happens? Nothing. So, we have to treat this the same way that we treat sales where it’s a process and you’re trying to build a relationship.”
In-person presentations can be 30 to 45 minutes long with plenty of time for questions and answers on what means the most to them.
Joyce says that once one student asks a question, more tend to join in with questions of their own. Russell says sometimes they start with a question and show of hands to get the ball rolling.