CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Program plants the seeds for a budding career

By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun

A new horticulture technician program will give high school students the roots needed to blossom in an industry that is growing by leaps and bounds.

The program, a joint venture between Bendale Collegiate Institute and Humber College, is open to Grade 12 students from across the Toronto District School Board, reports Bendale teacher Darren Convery.
Students from Bendale Collegiate participate in a new joint venture horticulture technician program with Humber College, which includes working at Canada Blooms.

As students earn high school credits, they will also complete the first year of Humber's horticulture apprenticeship program. Upon graduation, they can go straight into the college's advanced apprenticeship or receive horticulture diploma credits.

"The program is going to encourage youth to continue their education and will offer a few different pathways," says Terrie Greco, co-ordinator of Humber's horticulture apprenticeship program.

In the first term, students complete an eight-week co-op placement with a landscape firm or garden centre. In the second term, they attend Bendale, where they take Humber horticulture courses taught by a team of Humber and Bendale instructors.

In the third term, they take Bendale horticulture courses and participate in the Canada Blooms garden show. They complete the program in the fourth term, when they return to their co-op placement, which can lead to summer employment.

At the same time, students can register with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), which allows them to start collecting hours toward their journeyperson certification.
  • A horticultural technician plans, organizes and directs the activities of greenhouses and nurseries that grow and sell trees, shrubs, flowers and plants. They also plan and develop landscapes.
  • Apprenticeship training is recommended for people wanting to work in this trade and usually takes 2.2 years to complete. Training in this trade is for work in Ontario only.
  • To be successful in this trade, you need communications, good colour vision, problem-solving, analytical and organizational skills.
  • Horticultural technicians must know how to work safely with power tools and pesticides.

    -- Ministry of Education and Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (

  • According to Landscape Ontario, horticulture is a $7-billion industry in Ontario that employs about 100,000 people in 10,000 companies. Each year, about 2,500 people retire, but post-secondary institutions and apprenticeship programs produce just 200 to 250 graduates -- and only 60 to 100 of those work in the industry.

    "Obviously, we have very real shortages," says Terry Murphy, Landscape Ontario manager of education, training and human resources. "The industry is growing at 14 per cent a year and we expect that to double in five years. We simply don't have enough labour."

    Landscape Ontario worked with the Garden Club of Toronto to create Canada Blooms and has been working with school boards across the province to create programs that will introduce high school students to the trade.

    "It's a great industry that continues to evolve as people understand the value of landscaping," Murphy says.

    To find out more, call Bendale at 416-396-6695 and speak to Florence Ormonde or Darren Convery, or call Humber at 416-675-6622 and speak to Terrie Greco (ext. 4731) or Harry Chang (ext. 4880).

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