Attracting a New Generation to Horticulture
If you found this article you are either looking to hire more young people or are concerned about the future of the horticulture industry. In either case you came to the right place! Horticulture is an old and widespread field, but as it ought to be, things age with the passage of time. Horticulture is poised to make a huge difference in a changing world, but like nearly every other field it can struggle with attracting new people. From the perspective of a young horticulturist, I am going let you into the know on what I think could make the field more attractive to my generation.
Drive Home the Impact
Horticulture and its impact on society is nearly overwhelming when you think of it, but unfortunately it is largely unnoticed. Young people today are all about changing the world. It isn’t really a secret or a pipe dream, it is something we will have to do to help humanity and our planet survive. We like to know what impact we are having and to be involved in the global world we grew up in. We are often community oriented and want to know how we can make a difference. The thing is, there are so many options out there, and like any other young generation before us, we can sometimes be in need of direction. Take some time to let it be known the scope and impact of your work, what it brings to society and how it impacts the future or everyday life. There is no need to be grandiose, when the right people hear about what you’re doing they will want to be a part of it. The key here, as opposed to just making yourself known as a horticulturist, is to spread word of the impact horticulture has on society.
Make it a Team Effort
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many young people today are highly social. While we can be criticized for this, it can be one of our greatest strengths. The world is becoming ever more integrated and collaborative and young people work well and are often most comfortable in this sort of environment. We grew up with this and can see the role it will play in the future. As mentioned above, many of us have a strong drive to feel like we are a part of something and contribute. We can be motivated by efforts towards inclusivity in the workplace. Now this doesn’t mean we always demand the same position or place as our seniors, it just means we know that collaboration can be highly effective and everyone often has something meaningful to contribute. We are used to using each other as inspiration and sounding boards and a workplace or position that allows for this goes a long way towards attracting and realizing the potential of young people.
Make it Accessible
One of the biggest barriers I, and many young people like myself meet in the workplace is the accessibility of positions available. This comes from differences between the job experience required versus the job experience many of us are able to attain.
Sure, asking for 3 to 5 years experience on a job application sounds reasonable but it can be intimidating and can be a real barrier to accessing young people. Young people today have the world at their fingertips and have nearly their whole life. We will be applying for anything we are interested in and that we are qualified for. If you are willing to consider applications containing no, or minimal, prior experience say so. There are a lot of talented, bright and capable young people out there waiting for their chance. Sure it may be a little more training on your end, but ultimately it is an investment in someone’s future and likely the future of your field.
The second issue when it comes to job accessibility, is unpaid internships or work placements. While these can be easier to set up and can be great for getting experience they are not acceptable. Student debt is ever growing and the costs of living keep getting higher and higher. Most people cannot afford to take on an unpaid position. I have personally seen students and young professionals working two or three part time service industry jobs during off hours just to try to get themselves through their summer work experience they need to eventually get a paying job. The bottom line is if you offer an unpaid internship, you could be missing out on a huge portion of the possible talent you could be tapping into.
As An Employer Make Yourself Known
One of the problems with jobs in horticulture, particularly the science heavy ones, is people simply do not know they exist and young people are no exception. If you have a project or a job opening that you think could benefit from a couple young minds, reach out and find them. The internet is a great place to do this and so is directly through universities and colleges. Pretty much any faculty would be glad to circulate your job posting in their newsletter and may even invite you to their job fair or careers night.
Another important aspect of making yourself known is literally making yourself and your profession known. The more young people know about what you do and how you do it, the more interest you are going to pull in. Even if you are not currently in the market to hire, letting the world know what you are up to is key in attracting newcomers and will pay off in the long run. It takes passion to ignite passion.
What better way is there to secure the future of horticulture than to bring in fresh minds and young passionate hearts? A field that attracts young people is one that is passionate about its work. It is one that can share its story and let itself be known. It is also one that makes an effort to foster a healthy teamwork environment and makes sure it is accessible to the young minds of today. By reaching out and investing in young people, you are planting the seeds for success in the future of horticulture.