Helping Students Make the Best Career Choices

By Dan Wise, CCNP
CNGA Board President

The future is bright for those willing to invest time, money and sweat equity in a nursery or greenhouse business. One key resource that must be paid attention to is: PEOPLE. Where is the next generation of horticultural professionals coming from? As I’m sure most seasoned green industry veterans know, the paths to a career in nurseries and greenhouses are highly varied. Some people grow up in the industry and learn from siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, and grandparents. Others just love being outside and working with their hands, and find a home in this rewarding industry. Still others seek out vocational or secondary education in agriculture and horticulture.

One key element of any vocational or secondary horticulture education program is the internship. This is a time when the students can begin to make tactile connections from classrooms, labs and teaching greenhouses to real-world businesses and organizations. It is critical that CNGA members step up to participate in this process by providing internship opportunities to students—they are great learning opportunities for employers as well.

The opportunity and responsibility to teach these eager students gives you a chance to critically think about your operation on many different levels. I know that employing interns at my company has given us sharpened insight into both details and big-picture concepts of the “whats”, “whys” and “hows” of our nursery. Interns can also bring a fresh perspective to an organization, and shed light on practices that need attention—they can even help find solutions to these challenges.

Finally, the intent of having interns is not only to teach the intern some practical lessons in propagating, growing plants and operating a green industry business, but also to demonstrate what choosing a career in this amazing field is like on a day-to-day basis: the great people, exciting challenges, and beautiful surroundings should make their career choice obvious!