US: Floral pros get proactive to solve labor woes

When Chris Drummond, AAF, PFCI, talks with florists, wholesalers, and flower growers, everyone lists labor in their top three challenges "without exception," he says.

"And we're not going to fix the labor shortage in our industry unless we all become very proactive in finding solutions to the problem," says Drummond, president of Penny's by Plaza Flowers in Philadelphia and SAF's Immediate Past President.

Drummond and other floral and horticulture professionals from nearly 70 businesses seized the opportunity to be proactive by participating in Seed Your Future's Green Career Week, February 27 to March 3. The initiative got professionals in classrooms and students in businesses and created a buzz on social media — all in an effort to showcase and cultivate an interest in green careers.

The inaugural Green Career Week took place last fall, with two slated for this year. Last week's event targeted high schoolers, while the next one, Oct. 2-6, will target college students. 'Seed Your Future' executive director Jazmin Albaran says that the event is gaining traction, not just in the number of participants but also in the media. She was featured in eight radio interviews last week, one of which was aired nationally.

"It is so important that students know about the careers offered in horticulture and floriculture because we need to ease the labor challenge in our industries with smart, tech-savvy workers," Albaran says. "The response to Green Career Week from participants, students, and even the media has been wonderful."

Seed Your Future provides professionals with everything they need to participate in Green Career Week, including sample itineraries for school visits, activities, photo release forms, press releases, a social media toolkit, and more.

Building Connections
Drummond believes Green Career Week is a vital way to cultivate the next generation of industry professionals.

For his part, Drummond spoke to 20 students at The U School in Philadelphia, a vocational school with a department that focuses on careers in agriculture, horticulture, and food service. During his two-hour visit, Drummond talked with high school juniors and seniors about the different types of careers they can pursue, as well as the exciting technological advances that have made people more efficient in these roles. To wrap up the presentation, Drummond had students design a vase of roses and take their creations home.

Not only did his visit lead to many questions, but Drummond says several students expressed an interest in mentorship and job opportunities. He plans to work with the school and other local companies to create workplace experiences for those students.

Creating these types of experiences can go a long way toward immersing early career talent into the industry — and it doesn't have to end with students on the high school level.

For college student Olivia Vardy, a creative marketing intern at Details Flowers Software, getting the opportunity to participate in Green Career Week has reinforced her positive experience at the company.

"In the two months I have been at Details, my knowledge about the floral industry has already expanded immensely," Vardy says. "It's been fascinating learning about all of the opportunities within the floriculture and horticulture industry. The people are amazing, and it truly feels like one big community."

During Green Career Week, Details participated in an Instagram takeover, in which the company posted a range of content that included an office tour, a behind-the-scenes glimpse at weekly meetings, and interviews with the CEO. In addition, Details posted videos highlighting interns' experience at the company and what they have learned about the industry.

"I would have never guessed that I would be spending my senior year of university interning for a floral software company in the marketing department," says Vardy. "Over 15 years of education and not once did I learn about the opportunities in this industry."

That's why initiatives such as Green Career Week are so important to recruiting young talent to the industry.

"There are some really cool, rewarding careers in the green industry that are all about the future and sustainability and technology," Drummond says. "And those are things that kids get excited about now. They want to work in a job that's very rewarding, that on a very personal level, they feel like they're doing something good for the environment and something good for society."


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