John Howard Society of Durham Region
Mission: To reduce the impact of crime and its causes by providing a spectrum of effective prevention and intervention programs.
Main office: 905-579-8482, 75 Richmond Street West, Oshawa, Ontario, L1G 1E3

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Horticulture industry gets a boost

Jun 23, 2005

DURHAM - The horticulture industry, in desperate need of skilled workers, is getting some help. The John Howard Society, Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades, the provincial government, Humber College and the Durham District School Board have all joined together to provide training in a pre-apprentice program in the field.

The course, which began in April and ends in October, mixes field and classroom work to give the 21 students a green thumb and prepare them to become an apprentice. Humber College provides the classroom training at Central Collegiate Institute in Oshawa. The John Howard Society in Oshawa put together the proposal and along with the Landscape Ontario, gained funding from the provincial government for the project.

"They're doing great," said the John Howard Society's Christa LeBlanc of the students' progress. The John Howard Society, a non-profit social agency, provides a variety of programs and services, including offering help for people seeking employment. The agency sought candidates for the program by advertising throughout the community.

Terry Murphy of Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades said the program is what the doctor ordered for the shortage his industry faces.

"This has been a labour of love with different organization," he said. "We're preparing people for full-time careers." The Horticulture industry desperately needs skilled workers. According to Mr. Murphy, the housing boom and a
growing elderly population have led to an increased demand for these workers.
"We've had a pretty substantial demand (for skilled workers)," he said. "It's probably the fastest growing industry in Canada."

Mr. Murphy said the horticultural industry employs 100,000 people in Ontario and is an $8-billion business. Despite this, the horticultural trades don't get the exposure other trades do and Mr. Murphy works to change that by visiting high schools and speaking to guidance counsellors and students about the potential of a career in the field.

The horticultural industry encompasses many skilled trades, including masonry, electricity and plumbing. Most people think the horticultural industry only provides seasonal employment. People in the industry work fulltime hours in a more concentrated period of time. In addition to this, not all employment in the field occurs outdoors, such as positions in greenhouses.

"That image doesn't get out," said Tony Di Giovanni, executive director of the Ontario Horticultural Trades Association. Many careers in horticulture require a post-secondary education and aren't just about pushing a lawn mower around, he said.