Considerations in choosing to work in landscaping
There are almost no licensing barriers to entry in these sectors. As noted on the Landscape Ontario website, “most of the learning in [this] industry happens every day, on the job, working side-by-side with a more experienced or knowledgeable person.”
Working in this sector, however, is most often likely to involve unpredictable schedules due to seasonality, inclement weather, and volume and duration of customer contracts. The work year (or season) usually runs from April to the end of November – or even late December for companies involved in complex construction.
Depending upon the type of employer, work location may vary frequently and involve significant commuting time, with public transit being an option for entry-level labourers.
In order to advance beyond entry-level and especially to a supervisor level, having a driver’s licence is likely very important, whether to drive one’s own car to a company yard, where equipment and material are stored, or to drive a company vehicle.
In all cases, at the entry level, a degree of physicality is required, relating to strength, stamina, periods of standing and outdoor exposure.
Workers are expected to provide their own work clothes, including appropriate steel-toe boots, rainwear and cold weather gear, in winter.
English language proficiency
Despite having prior experience and training outside of Canada, speaking and comprehension ability in English could be a significant impediment to entry and promotion. Even to work as a labourer will likely require CLB 2 or higher. (“CLB 2” refers to Canadian Language Benchmark and the second of 12 levels of language proficiency. For an explanation of what a newcomer should be able to understand, speak, read, and write at this benchmark level, see: Canadian Language Benchmarks ‘Can Do’ Statements – CLB 2.) With prior skills and training, there may be better job opportunities at CLB 5. There should be very good opportunities to enter and progress for those with CLB 7 and higher.
For those newcomers hoping to significantly improve their English on the job, opportunities to do so will depend upon the nature of the job. In many cases, much of the landscaping or horticultural work day may be spent in little conversation with co-workers and customers. At entry level, co-workers with whom there might be conversation, may themselves have limited English-speaking ability. Employers in this sector are unlikely to facilitate English instruction on the work site.
The landscaping and horticultural sectors have a low level of union representation.
Compensation ranges in GTA
Compensation in the GTA at unskilled, entry level, full-time landscaping and horticultural employment is likely to range from $13.00 to $18.00 per hour, with limited benefits, irregular hours, and seasonal unemployment. Working an average of 1,600 to 1,800 hours per eight month “year” (likely averaging 45 to 50 hours per week worked) would generate income of $20,800 to $28,800 per “year” at $13.00 per hour and $23,400 to $32,400 per eight month “year” at the $18.00 rate. Vacation pay at 4% would be on top of these earnings. Additional income from other sources might be earned during the remaining four months of the year.
For those with skills, such as carpentry, stone masonry, brick laying, electrical or plumbing knowledge or best practice horticulture, hourly compensation could be in the range of $20.00 to $26.00 per hour ($32,000 to $47,000 per eight month “year”.) Supervisors could make in the range of $26.00 to $30.00 ($41,600 to $54,000 per eight month “year”.) Vacation pay, at 4%, would also be earned.
During Winter month layoffs, workers in this sector commonly do snow clearance or interior construction. Many collect unemployment insurance, provided that the required minimum number of weeks had been worked in the given year. Those planning a career in landscaping and related industries often attend training courses during the Winter months.
Hiring periods during the year
Principal hiring in landscaping and related industries most commonly takes place early in the calendar year, as employers hope to have their team(s) ready to go in April as soon as the weather allows. That said, replacement or additional workers are frequently needed later in the season. it is also possible that extra hands are needed to complete a project on time, or to cover for a worker who is unable to work for a limited period. Leaving contact information with a prospective employer should be routine.
Prospective employees should make sure that an employer has workers’ compensation coverage that provides for workers in case of job site accidents.
Newcomer representation in this sector in the GTA
In the past, significant numbers of newcomers from Italy and Portugal went to work in the landscaping sector. More recently, there appears to be a wave of newcomers from Eastern Europe entering this sector, but no significant numbers appear to yet be coming from Syria, Iraq and other Arabic-speaking countries, nor from Africa or Latin America.
The landscaping and horticultural industries in the GTA do not have significant union representation, except for within some larger companies for the labourers and heavy equipment operators that they employ, which are represented by:
Local 793 – International Union of Operating Engineers