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Responding to Labor Shortages in the Horticultural Industry

Widespread labor shortages in the horticultural industry aren’t new, but actually represent a steadily increasing trend year over year. The horticultural industry has a variety of barriers to overcome in order to attract people to enter the industry.


Widespread labor shortages in the horticultural industry aren’t new, but actually represent a steadily increasing trend year over year. In fact, according to Radstad, general laborers are the single most needed role in Canada for 2018. So where are job seekers choosing to work? The answer for the most part is that people are looking for desk jobs in sectors like finance and technology. These jobs are appealing because they offer attractive wages, a sense of personal security and stability, and a healthy work-life balance. Understandably, the perception of general labour in the horticultural industry leaves much to be wanted, creating an increasing labour gap that is directly affecting the growth of the industry as a whole.

“Among commodities, the ‘greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture’ industry will continue to have the largest labor gap,” notes the report. “With an expected gap of 27,000 workers in 2025, this commodity group will account for nearly one-quarter of the sector’s labor gap.”

Source -CAHRC

So why aren’t people interested in horticulture as a career?

What's Causing the Labour Shortages

The horticultural industry has a variety of barriers to overcome in order to attract people to enter the industry. To overcome those obstacles, the first step is to understand them. Here are just a few barriers that are keeping people from pursuing careers in horticulture.

Societal Perceptions - The majority of society considers careers that are physically demanding as less desirable. This attitude discourages people from even exploring careers in horticulture. Those working in horticulture are often exposed to the industry by a family member or friend rather than simply choosing it out of interest.

Overcoming assumptions starts with advocacy from those within the industry. People who are passionate about their work are the perfect advocates to drive change and recruit people into the industry. Leaders within your business can foster passion and teamwork which will help to recruit and retain staff.

Seasonal Insecurities - The seasonal nature of working in the horticulture industry can definitely discourage potential applicants. The majority of the workforce seek stability and job security, which immediately detracts from the idea of pursuing seasonal work. Working nine months out of the year, rather than twelve can deter otherwise interested applicants.

While you may not be in a position to offer year-round employment, what you can offer is a clear emphasis on work-life balance. People are always looking for better quality of life and seasonal work offers people the ability to travel or pursue personal pursuit during the offseason.

Barriers to Entry - Most horticultural businesses are located in rural areas which present potential workers with transportation or accommodation barriers. Students are great candidates for the seasonal nature of the jobs but are most affected by access barriers.

Providing transportation solutions like carpooling will help to reduce those barriers. With many shifts starting at or around the same time, ride-sharing is an attractive option that not only gets staff to work, but builds the team dynamic among your employees. Incentivizing carpooling is another way you can encourage staff to travel together while also presenting yourself as a concerned global citizen.

Earnings - At first glance, most nurseries and greenhouses offer wages that are not aligned with the physical nature of the role. Jobs in horticulture are very physically demanding and predominantly pay just above minimum wage. The wages offered aren’t enough to entice people to work a physically demanding and seasonal job.

Raising wages is not the only way to add value to a job. People want to feel fulfilled in the work they do and work in the horticultural industry can offer them that. Providing staff with opportunities to feel a sense of accomplishment and creating a positive working environment can make a huge difference. Physically demanding work can easily create a unique sense of accomplishment which should be promoted in job postings.

Overcoming Labour Shortages in Your Nursery or Greenhouse

Every industry and job has its high and low points, and every industry must overcome the low point to retain a sustainable workforce. The horticultural industry will have to adapt and evolve to attract more domestic workers to meet labor demands. To overcome labor shortages business owners in the horticultural industry need to evolve and try a novel approach to this long-term problem. Simple job posts on an industry job board won’t always do the trick. Implementing a more aggressive hiring campaign this spring that highlights the positive aspects of the industry is an excellent place to start as a business.


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