A new survey released by The Ohio State University (OSU) Department of Horticulture and Crop Science has made known some valuable information about the makeup of the green industry workforce. The survey was conducted by Hannah Mathers, an OSU Extension nursery and landscape specialist, and Alejandra Acuña, a graduate student. Amore than nursery employees in many states, including Ohio, Michigan, Delaware, Florida, Arizona and Rhode Island were questioned for the survey. Before the survey, basic information about the nature of the workforce, such as nationality, work experience, legal status, education level and salary, had not been collected specifically for the green industry.
According to the survey, 70 percent of the industry’s labor force is Spanish-speaking or of Hispanic origin. More half are from Mexico, and Hispanic migrant laborers dominated the green industry in all surveyed states, except for Indiana.
Other findings from the survey included that the number of women entering the workforce is increasing, from only about five percent in 2003 to nearly half today. More than 70 percent of those working in the green industry are aged 18-34 and have a middle school education and only about 22 percent of workers understand English. Job proficiency is strongly correlated with language proficiency and communication barriers are often created in the workplace.
Nursery workers that were surveyed receive less than average U.S. hourly earnings, with 75 percent earning between $6 and $10 per hour. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed were interested in attending work-related courses or classes and would welcome training in areas of plant identification, insects, diseases, weeds and equipment safety.
Mathers believes that knowledge of the labor force is the first step to improve the well-being of migrant workers, and building working relationships with employers. However, opportunities may vary from one business to another across the industry. This indicates that across-the-board training will not be as effective as creating programs specific to each group.
The Survey was funded by the OSU CARES Program, the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association, the Horticulture Research Institute and the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science.
For more information, visit www.hcs.osu.edu/news.