Washington, D.C.

Sarah L. Anderson, Senior Manager, Tree Equity Programs

Sarah Anderson spoke on diversifying the workforce at the first National Workforce Summit.
Sarah Anderson spoke on diversifying the workforce at the first National Workforce Summit. Credit: National Association of Landscape Professionals.

A SKILLED WORKFORCE is fundamental to our mission of growing and sustaining healthy urban forests.

Unfortunately, urban forestry, landscaping and horticulture professionals are facing a massive skilled labor shortage. Studies show that communities with the highest tree canopy needs generally tend to be those that have the highest unemployment; yet, public agencies, nonprofit groups and tree- and lawn- care companies are struggling to engage and retain women and low-income people of color. In 2017 alone, 71,000 landscaping jobs went unfilled.

American Forests’ newly launched Tree Equity: Career Pathways initiative seeks to address this shortage.

In February, I was pleased to share successful strategies for diversifying the green workforce at the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ first National Workforce Summit held just outside Washington, D.C. During my session, Diversifying the Workforce, summit participants were introduced to scenarios that could be hurting retention like isolation, lack of accommodations and tokenism, and recognized potential solutions to these obstacles. For instance, ensuring that there is more than just one person of color on a crew is important. Ensuring that women have access to a restroom while on job sites is critical to retaining women in important field roles. And, any senior leader that happens to be part of an underrepresented group should not be the only go-to person for all questions dealing with the organization’s inclusion efforts.

Reviewing examples like these, along with definitions of key terms like diverse, divergent, representation, inclusion and equality, have helped reveal opportunities for participants to improve inclusion efforts that ultimately create a more representative workforce. With a qualified and inclusive workforce, we will sustain healthy cities through resilient urban forests for generations to come.