Who’s taking our labor: oil and gas or food? Email
Wednesday, November 12, 2014 11:00 AM

Some lament the oil and gas industry has pulled away much of the young workforce the landscape industry needs.

But what about the food industry? Their projected sales according to the Colorado Restaurant Association, will hit $9.8 billion this year. That’s about $7 billion MORE than Colorado’s entire green industry combined. 

Food service work still represents a first job among many teens and young adults – the same group that the landscape industry has traditionally sought after for seasonal and entry-level positions. It’s also the demographic any industry needs to attract if it expects to be sustainable over time. 

According to a recent article in The Denver Post, food industry businesses account for about 1 in 5 new jobs added this year. And median hourly wage for tipped workers in the state is $16 to $22 per hour.

The Post also reports that the unemployment rate last year among 16- to 19-year-olds in Colorado was 21.7%. Among 20- to 24-year-olds, it was 11.7%. How do we tap into this labor pool? 

The Post writer also raises a critical question about the impact of the rising food industry: with the state’s overall unemployment rate being less than 5%, could the food industry’s hiring wars be siphoning off workers from other industry sectors in addition to raiding staff from their peers and competitors? 

With Colorado being among the top 10 states for construction and manufacturing hiring, it does present the landscape industry with food for thought.

How we tap into these young workers who might not even know that they have an affinity for the industry is one challenge. Competing with the take-home pay from food industry jobs may be another. At the end of the day, however, anyone can lose their appetite for dealing with hungry customers and schlepping food on and off the table.

Ultimately, part of the solution may lie in the outdoor world and the personal satisfaction that can be found there. The allure of the restaurant world has always been its ambiance. That, too, may become more critical for the landscape industry as we market the attractiveness of our world to a new generation of potential employees.

Read more in this issue of Colorado Green NOW:
2015 HR alerts: changes in contribution limits
ALCC Volunteer Awards
Lifescape Colorado uses demonstration garden as a sales tool
Sustainable Partner update: The Brickman Group helps area farmer


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