Blog: Changing the landscape: nurturing talent in the industry
By Justine Addison, Head of Talent, Ground Control
While it’s probably going too far to say there’s a recruitment crisis in the landscaping industry, we are experiencing challenges when trying to attract talent that demand innovative responses. Here at Ground Control, we are pioneering an industry-leading approach that we believe will open up careers in landscaping to a much wider audience and help us address skills shortages.
Principal of the issues we face is that landscaping is not a popular career choice, particularly among young people, women and people from minority backgrounds. Historically, there’s not a huge amount of diversity in landscaping – it’s white male orientated and few women from a school-age are targeted or even are aware it’s an opportunity.
It can be a cold career too because you are outside whatever the weather – the best job in the world in the summer but not quite so great in winter.
It’s also not well known. I can guarantee if I ask a school leaver if they’ve ever heard of business-to-business landscaping, they would have no idea what I’m talking about. Cutting grass is something you do in somebody’s back garden; it’s not something you do for a huge supermarket chain or hospitality company.
Even if you are aware of it and are keen to get involved, routes into the industry are not easy. You ideally need at least a Level 2 Horticulture qualification and, once you’ve attained that, your choice is either to start your own business or be directly employed by another organisation.
At Ground Control, we work with our local field teams to deliver works and projects for our clients. To set up with the equipment, you need around £30,000, which is obviously a huge outlay for someone just coming out of college. And that’s before you consider whether or not you have the acumen or even desire to run your own business.
So clearly, we face a challenge that requires truly transformative thinking, which is why we’re introducing a career path programme called Changing the Landscape. Part apprenticeship, part business development initiative, the programme is aimed at literally growing our own field teams of the future.
The scheme works by funding people through their apprenticeships in ground maintenance with current field teams, then offering them the opportunity to start their own landscaping enterprise with us on a ‘pay-per-cut’ system. Under this, people are paid for the work they do and, at the same time, we would forward fund them for all of their equipment, which they would pay back over a period of time – a bit like HP on a car. At the end of that period, they take ownership of the equipment, which means in effect they become their own micro-entrepreneur. By that point, we would hope they have had enough success that they then want to take on an apprentice of their own – and the cycle continues.
We realise not everyone who’s attracted to an outdoors career such as landscaping necessarily has the skills or experience to run their own business, so part of the programme involves training and support in that as well. Specifically around understanding tax, employment law and a whole raft of other things you may come up against as a small business owner.
To spread the word, we will be visiting schools and colleges and partnering with social enterprises, charities and community groups. Our aim is to reach people from all different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, but concentrating the lens particularly on potential female and candidates with black or Asian heritage. We’re also working with the probation service and a couple of charities so we can provide opportunities for ex-offenders, especially women. It’s about showing people from all backgrounds there are real prospects and rewarding careers in landscaping. Diversity and inclusion are tremendously important to us – we believe it’s essential to be representative of the communities you’re working in, so if we are providing services in a highly diverse area, the expectation should be that our people are equally diverse. Our field team model helps here because it’s based on people working in their local areas. Changing the Landscape will hopefully help us seed further micro-enterprises in ever more diverse communities and provide long-term growth potential for local people.
And that can mean much more than just cutting the grass: two of our executive team built their careers, having started out as apprentices, so who knows? Our Changing the Landscape graduates could one day be making decisions on the board. By launching this programme, we are giving people who share our commitment to caring for the environment the opportunity to grow something that will sustain them and their local communities for years to come. That really is changing the landscape.
For more information contact:
Head of Talent, Ground Control
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