In a Covid-altered employment landscape, it's something of an irony that there are "huge" opportunities in…landscaping.
Restrictions from the pandemic have meant many homeowners, unable to travel overseas or to take expensive domestic holidays, have instead invested in their properties. Kitchen and bathroom renovations are one obvious by-product; so is landscaping.
Colleen Getley, founder and director of Trade Jobs NZ, says the New Zealand landscaping market is estimated at $2 billion (by IbisWorld late last year) – but is being hampered by a lack of landscape practitioners.
Trade Jobs NZ is a website which aims to bridge the gap between employers and employees, making it easier for tradespeople to find the right role, and businesses to attract them to apply. Various industries, including landscaping, are facing dire shortages of skilled people – but traditional methods of job advertising, including online job sites and recruitment methods, are much less effective for tradespeople.
Trade Jobs NZ creates a connection between employers desperate for staff or for people they can train up with skills. The Trade Jobs NZ mobile-enabled website makes it easier for tradespeople to apply for jobs online by setting up a password-protected personal profile. Information about their skills and experience needs to be entered only once, and relevant trade certification, licences and qualifications can also be uploaded, replacing the traditional CV – which many "tradies" don't have.
Janine Scott, CEO of Registered Master Landscapers (RML), says RML's membership represents a spend of more than $100m annually, a figure increasing year on year, accrued by landscape professionals including designers, builders, horticultural specialists and garden care experts.
"Our members undertake a wide range of residential and commercial landscaping projects of all sizes," she says, "and they are telling us that the forward pipeline of work over the next year and beyond is huge."
However, the difficulty of filling all the skilled and unskilled roles on offer is a big issue: "Historically, we have relied on immigration to fill the shortages in labour supply – but the closed border has had a major impact.
"It puts into sharp focus, for not just our sector but across the trades, the need to invest in the attraction of local talent – not just to tackle the existing problem of staff shortages but also longer term, for the continuing growth of the industry."
That's where Trade Jobs NZ comes in; Scott says the landscaping industry wants to hire experienced landscape professionals and those new to the sector: "Our members recognise that, in these limiting times, providing apprenticeships and training for those with passion but few skills is a critical part of meeting the challenges of the skills shortage.
"There are tremendous opportunities for progression within the industry for those who demonstrate a strong work ethic and willingness to learn and commit," she says.
The landscaping industry is offering competitive rates against other trades to attract talent. Landscape companies advertising on the Trade Jobs NZ website range from $22-$26 an hour for a general landscaper; $30-$40 an hour for a landscape builder; $23 an hour for groundspeople; and $40-$42 an hour for supervisors/management.
"So we can confidently say, from currently listed landscaping job ads at Trade Jobs NZ, landscaping employees can earn from $47,840 for unskilled entry level, rising quickly with experience and training to $62,400 and around $83,000-$87,370 per annum for supervisory and management roles with added benefits," says Getley.
That, however, does not take into account the business opportunities available for those who develop their skills to start their own business.
Scott says: "There is a misconception that landscaping is merely about the mowing of lawns and the planting of a few plants: this could not be further from the truth. The range of careers and jobs on offer are as diverse and rich as the landscapes we create and look after.
"Of course these form part of the maintenance of a beautiful landscape, but RML's Landscapes of Distinction Awards give an indication of the quality and complexity of projects that a career in landscaping can involve. The career paths are varied - from the practical to the aesthetic – and providing combinations of both.
Getley says the beauty of the Trade Jobs NZ site is that it makes it easy for tradies and employers to connect. "When we were researching the business model, we discovered that significant number of tradies leave school with a CV, get a job and then don't keep their CV up.
"That means they do not have a paper trail which demonstrates to prospective employers that they have skills which might be employed in this area or that area. What we found was that, as a result, a lot of tradies just stuck in their job – because it's okay, they like the people they're with, and it's just a bit too hard to change.
"What we do is to replace the CV with their profile and their experience – that's the key. So we want to drive users to the Trade Jobs NZ website, have landscaping employers enquire about listing their jobs with us, and tradies already in the landscaping sector to build their online Tradie Profile even if they're not searching for a job.
It's like we always say: 'You might not be looking for a job, but a job might be looking for you'."