Landscaping companies try to dig up workers

SOUTH HERO, Vt. (WCAX) – With snow-capped trees and snow-capped sidewalks, landscaping might not be the first thing you think about.

But if you’re looking to update your garden next summer, you’ll want to start thinking about it ASAP.

In this week’s “Help Wanted” our Kayla Martin explains why projects take longer to complete and how a landscaping company handles high demand for service when it is difficult to recruit employees.

Jeff Swanson has worked for di Stefano Landscaping for about a decade. He enjoys the outdoors and has a passion for gardening.

“I went to school for art and education and found my niche here,” Swanson said.

He started in the company as a laborer and is now the company’s first foreman.

“One of the reasons for that is that he’s able to really train. We have probably seven or eight staff now who have been trained by Jeff. He’s a very good teacher. And he’s an artist, ”said Chris di Stefano, owner and president of the company.

There is no cookie cutter trader.

“Be ready for anything, any day,” Swanson said.

“We use plants, stones, earth and water – he uses it in a way as a medium,” explained di Stefano.

di Stefano wants to shatter all stereotypes about the appearance or behavior of a craftsman.

Almost 20 to 25% of our staff are female. They work in a circle around some of the other staff, ”he said.

But they just don’t see the number of candidates they knew before. This, combined with supply chain shortages and higher demand for services, means projects take longer to start and complete.

Projects are now reserved for one year.

“The profession of landscaper has a lot of work to do to position itself in front of young candidates. And teach them how they can build a career in this field, and how rewarding it can be, ”said di Stefano.

He says those interested in trades may not even be aware of their industry.

“This is probably one of the biggest workforce challenges for the landscaping industry in general,” said di Stefano.

They are actively recruiting and focusing more than usual.

“Go to job fairs and trade shows both virtually and in person. We go to local trade schools. We have a sign in front of our establishment, ”said di Stefano. “A lot of the hires we have made are recommendations from our current staff. “

Unlike many outside services, they offer year-round work. This is because they have three different divisions: snow, landscape and maintenance, and landscape construction.

“We bring people from different divisions, whether it’s maintenance or construction in the snow division in winter to keep them busy,” said di Stefano.

Four to five positions are currently available. By the spring, they will hire 15 additional employees.

“Everything from entry level, no experience necessary, ready to train,” said di Stefano. “As well as foreman positions. This would obviously require some experience in the trade and the ability to lead a team and manage jobs. “

The starting salary for entry-level positions is $ 15 an hour up to $ 20 for experienced workers, plus overtime, PTO, vacation, comprehensive health care as company covers about 80% and an IRA with a high match with the company.

But you have to love what you do because the job has its challenges.

“Forty, 50, 60 hours a week is not for everyone,” Swanson said.

And the weather won’t always be on your side.

“Sometimes it’s beautiful and sunny and it’s like an idyllic landscaping, planting flowers. Other days it rains heavily and you hit rocks, ”Swanson said.

This is why di Stefano “hires for character rather than skills”.

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Terri S. Tomasini