The floriculture and horticulture industries are struggling to find workers. Seed Your Future is working to change that — and wants floral industry professionals to join the cause.
Seed Your Future, a movement that became part of the Society of American Florists in 2021, works to inspire people to pursue careers with plants and flowers.
Seed Your Future’s executive director, Jazmin Albarran, is asking the industry to become part of that movement — but also has advice for those struggling to find skilled workers right now.
Employers need to forge relationships with local schools and organizations that could steer students into “green” jobs, she says, and they need to rethink how and where they are posting jobs.
“It is going to take getting out of your norm, what’s comfortable and what you know,” Albarran says. “It gets back to establishing relationships with organizations that are similar in the mindset and the service they’re providing to help you to create that internal pipeline of future employees.”
Cultivating relationships in the local community is an impactful way to feed the labor pipeline, Albarran says. She suggests looking beyond horticulture students to, say, fashion students or art students, because they have a creative eye and skillset that is valuable to the industry. To create a more diverse workforce, connect with historically black colleges and universities in the area. Find vocational schools or clubs with students who might be interested in horticulture. Reach out to those institutions about offering an internship or being a part of their classes, whether through a presentation, field trip or periodically donating a bouquet for art students to draw as part of their studio coursework.
Albarran acknowledges this is not an easy task but says the industry can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. “You have to prioritize finding these organizations and establishing relationships and partnerships, so that you can hopefully make those connections,” she says.
Albarran has been making those connections since she started in her role last year. She’s been working with Michael Hinzman, a placement officer at the Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His adult students come from different backgrounds including IT and culinary arts, but they are all interested in plants, he says.
“Most of them don’t know where they want to go under the horticulture umbrella because there’s so many different types of jobs,” he says. “Seed Your Future has been really, really helpful in helping people that just throw the net super wide…and narrow down their ideas of what they would like to do.”
Albarran encourages everyone in the industry to follow her lead.
“Find creative ways to use your tools, which are flowers and plants, and let that speak for you and the industry,” she says. “These schools are hungry for those connections. These teachers are using their own dollars sometimes to fund activities. For a floral shop or a grower to be able to say, ‘Hey, twice a month, I can give you my extra.’ That is going to be so well received and appreciated by any teacher and any school across the country.”
Albarran has an abundance of ideas, but she also wants to make industry professionals excited, not overwhelmed, at the prospect of finding more workers. The organization has resources and materials that are available to anyone. Currently, SYF is hosting its annual Plant Mash Up contest, which asks middle school students to draw a picture and write an essay about a fictitious hybrid plant that, based on their properties, can help solve an issue in the students’ communities. Florists and growers can use the contest to connect with schools, Albarran says. “We want to help,” she says. “Use us.”
Recruiting for Here and Now
Recruiting a new generation of workers — and a more diverse talent pool — means going beyond the tried-and-true recruitment tools. That includes where employers post their openings and what they put in the description. Many employers are using Indeed to post jobs — and that’s it. That’s not where young people are, Albarran says. They’re on social media platforms such as Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok. They’re on platforms for college students such as Handshake, AfterCollege and College Recruiter. There are also other industry resources, such as the American Floral Endowment’s Career Center, which includes job listings as well as templates for job postings and even social media help wanted language. In March, Seed Your Future will launch a job board aggregator that will pull job openings from 50 boards to help job seekers find current openings in the industry.
Once an employer reaches students, they must appeal to them through the job description. Using plain language with clearly defined tasks and formatting the post in a way that’s easy to read (e.g., bullet points) is important, Albarran says. It’s also important to include the company’s mission statement so job seekers can get a feel for the business’s culture and purpose.
“Younger people get excited about connections,” Albarran says. “Young people say they want to be able to see themselves doing the job and feel connected to the job, to the company. They want to know what the company is doing for the planet, sustainability wise. They want to know they are part of something bigger.”
For more about Seed Your Future, click here.
Nicole Stempak is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.