We hear repeatedly that one of the biggest challenges members face is finding and hiring qualified employees. CNGA and CHREF are working to help with this challenge in numerous ways, starting with reaching out through CSU and FFA outreach, to students who have not yet set a career direction.
While this outreach allows us to talk to students individually, there are key benefits to getting our name out there with students. It keeps the message in front of them that horticulture and the green industry are viable career areas providing great opportunities for young people to enter the field and make an impact, as well as make a good living. We all know it takes multiple attempts and ongoing efforts to get an advertising message across, so CNGA and CHREF are putting in the time, work and funding to repeatedly get our message in front of students.
CNGA exhibited at the Colorado FFA State Convention and Career Fair the past two years, represented by industry volunteers including Nate Douglas, Sheila Prentice and Emily Vogel from Arbor Valley and Nikki Malfitano from Tagawa Greenhouse Enterprises. At these events, we had the opportunity to talk to high school students with an interest in agriculture and possibly horticulture careers. Our volunteers also spoke to the students at a round table forum about careers in ag business and horticulture. This round table was so popular in 2022 that they added a second session in 2023.
CNGA and CHREF sponsored the CSU Green Industry Field Day May 2nd at The Ranch Complex in Loveland, CO. The event hosted over 300 area high school students who spent the day learning and exploring opportunities available in the green industry, getting hands-on experience and meeting people engaged in our industry.
CHREF also sponsored a competition at the FFA Career and Leadership Development Events in Floriculture in early May. Participating students identify plants, judge flower arrangements and solve problems using skills important to horticulture and floral careers. An award goes to a high school team with an FFA horticulture program. Diana Reavis, CHREF board member, was on hand to present the award.
Debi Borden-Miller and former CNGA president Kerri Dantino represented CNGA and CHREF at the Brighton High School job fair. They talked with dozens of students about careers in the green industry. And, finally, in early March, Debi and CNGA board member Beth Gulley took part in the CSU Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Professional Mixer. Several CNGA members also took part, and got to visit with 90 CSU students. Many students were looking for internships and jobs and we spoke with many about careers in the industry.
And finally, our Young Hort Professional team met with several high school classes over the past year to introduce the students to horticulture careers. The team also participated in a career session at ProGreen 2023. Thanks to Jason Shimmel, Kasaundra Pribyl, Pixie Caballero, Nikki Maltifano, Ashley Brinegar and Mike Schleining for their time and efforts.
CHREF also is continuing its scholarship program and looking to expand it significantly. You will be hearing more from CHREF about plans to attract more students to our industry – starting with a $1,000 scholarship available to any student majoring in horticulture – whether as an incoming first-year student or as a transfer student. Please let us know if you hear of opportunities to work with young people that CNGA and CHREF should investigate.