Landscaping companies, nurseries looking for employees
September 25, 2011 - 1:03 am
The temperatures in the Las Vegas Valley range from triple digits to near freezing and our annual rainfall is what some states get in one week. But that doesn’t mean we have to suffer when it comes to the beauty of our landscaping, and there are plenty of experts to help us along the way.
The valley is strewn with landscaping companies and nurseries that offer advice, plant material, maintenance and design services. And as the planting seasons approach in the fall and spring, they are on the lookout for employees who can fill a variety of positions — whether it’s helping customers find the ideal plants for their home gardens or running the hedgers and trimmers to maintain large commercial projects.
Star Nursery starts to fill positions for cashiers and laborers at the beginning of September in preparation for the fall season, and in mid-February for spring. The company, which has 10 stores across the valley, usually fills between 40 to 50 seasonal positions, according to Paul Noe, merchandiser and horticulture adviser for Star Nursery.
Fall and spring are the best times to establish new plants and to take care of existing landscaping because of the milder temperatures, he noted. In the fall that means customers are looking for fertilizers, plants for their winter gardens, shrubs, trees, even cool-season flowers, such as pansies, to add some color to their yards, Noe said.
“The temperatures outside are conducive to people being out in their yards and working, so they’re going to feel like being outdoors,” he said.
Laborers, or yard workers, are responsible for unloading all those plants and plant materials from the trucks, and assisting customers by pulling items and helping them load them into their cars.
While plant knowledge is not required for seasonal laborers or cashiers, what is necessary is “pride in themselves and pride in their work,” Noe said. He also pointed out that there are opportunities to advance within the company, particularly for those who show enthusiasm for their work and a willingness to learn.
No matter the season, Star Nursery is continually looking for sales personnel with technical knowledge in areas such as horticulture, irrigation, fertilizers and plant types, he added. “We’re always on the lookout for good, knowledgeable salespeople and they are normally hard to come by.”
The company even has a question-and-answer program for customers called “Ask Dr. Q” which can include a consultation with an expert who makes an in-person “house call” to get a sense of the particular landscaping issue firsthand.
“We really do want people who aren’t there just to pick up a pay check, but people who are interested in our industry. … It makes their job more special to them and actually makes them more excited about what they’re doing and in helping other people,” he added.
While Star is not a small “mom-and-pop” business, “we like to pride ourselves on the customer service end of it. The education and the knowledge.”
When Plant World Nursery Manager Brian Adams is interviewing someone for a job on his sales staff, he walks them around the nursery grounds and just listens. If they point out the different plants and recite the names, it’s a good sign. If they seem to understand how to make the plants grow in our harsh desert climate – all the better.
Plant World has been serving the valley since 1967. The locally owned nursery at 5301 W. Charleston Blvd. has employees who have been with the business more than 20 years and know their customers by name. While the nursery isn’t necessarily hiring new staff during the busy seasons, there are occasional openings so that extra plant knowledge is a huge plus, particularly for the sales staff, Adams said.
He advises that those who are interested in getting hired at a nursery learn more about horticulture by signing up for master gardener classes with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and check out places such as the botanical gardens at the Springs Preserve.
Of course, even walking around Plant World is a great way to expand someone’s knowledge, with a full selection that includes cacti, palm trees, vegetables, flowers, drought-tolerant trees and shrubs, bonsai and indoor plants.
“We have everything from the desert to lush look,” Adams said.
When the seasons are mild and plants are growing, most of the larger landscaping businesses are looking for additional workers to help them maintain areas such as business parks, residential clubhouses, casinos, strip malls — the list goes on.
Jay Stauss, co-owner and president of Classic Landscapes, notes that his company ramps up its maintenance-crew hiring in March and looks for workers who can operate small equipment such as hedge trimmers, weed eaters and lawn mowers, and have basic landscaping knowledge such as how to prune a tree. The company, however, will train workers during the busy seasons who have the desire to learn.
All new employees go through an orientation that covers issues ranging from operating the equipment to respecting the privacy of clients, he added. The company also provides instruction on irrigation basics, including a model of a below-ground irrigation system that hangs on a wall at the company’s offices so employees can gain an understanding of how those systems work.
Most of Classic Landscapes’ clients are homeowners associations of all sizes, which means maintaining homes, parks, clubhouses and pool areas. The company also has clients such as casinos and hospitals.
Particularly with the homeowners associations, there is lots of planting in the spring as well as conversion to drought-tolerant landscaping. This means taking out grass, and putting in rock, drought-tolerant plants and special irrigation systems that use 30 to 40 percent less water, Stauss said.
But while dozens of seasonal employees are hired in the spring starting around mid-March, the company can have job opportunities year-round since the landscaping business never comes to a halt in Las Vegas.
“We don’t shut landscaping down where the rest of the country shuts down and starts blowing snow. So you may have a 75 degree day in January and you still need to make sure that the grass is watered,” he said.
Job seekers can check out the Classic Landscapes’ website at www.classicscapes.net. Just click on “contact us” and then “job opportunities.” Recent openings included account manager, crew foreman and certified irrigation technician.
“We’re willing to look at everybody at all times. We’re constantly recruiting,” Stauss said.
Neville Landscape Services is always looking for solid supervisory personnel. The 16-year-old business, a landscape contractor and maintenance company, has a client base that includes everything from casinos to car dealerships.
“We’re always looking for good supervisory, management-type material in this industry,” said owner James Neville.
Supervisors oversee a crew of up to five workers and handle duties such as daily scheduling, customer service, irrigation repairs, general maintenance and upkeep, and paperwork. Neville said he prefers someone with about five years experience in the industry and training in the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Water Smart practices.
In the fall and spring when services such as planting, aeration, general spring clean-up and landscape conversions are on the rise, Neville hires additional maintenance workers and usually looks for those with a basic knowledge of landscaping equipment and practices. They do offer training, however.
In both cases, whether supervisor or someone starting out as a general laborer, there is “absolutely” a chance to move up in the company. “I have a maintenance department manager who was a foreman with a small, two-man crew, and now he oversees seven crews and hundreds of properties,” he said.
Those looking for jobs can stop by the Neville Landscape office at 5000 W. Oakey Blvd., Suite D-1.
The Groundskeeper — a business that offers landscaping installation and maintenance services in Nevada, as well as Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — has more than 800 employees companywide, but there is an extra incentive for workers to show pride in their work.
It is an employee-owned business “so the guy who mows your yard has probably been here a long time,” said Ellen Rosenbaum, who works in business development for the company.
Having a share in the business may keep employee turnover low, but the company does bring in extra laborers who usually stay from April and into the late fall. Last spring they hired 10 new workers in Las Vegas, although hiring numbers depend on each year’s workload.
Seasonal employees have to be prepared to work in the extreme heat and understand that it is hard labor and not for everyone.
“For the maintenance/laborer it’s important that they have experience in landscaping. A lot of times people think just about anybody off the street can be a (landscape worker) and that’s just not the case,” noted Kerry Chamberlain, office manager at the Las Vegas location. “They need to be willing to work hard. It’s very hard work, very demanding.”
Occasionally the company will bring in seasonal workers for the improvement division which handles landscape conversions and major plantings, Chamberlain said. Water Smart conversions, as with many landscaping companies right now, are a big part of the business.
Those who are considering a future in landscaping may want to look at what other kinds of experts are on staff at the various landscaping businesses. There are irrigation experts, landscape designers, landscape-conversion experts, arborists, and even employees with some high-tech experience.
The Groundskeeper, for example, has a proprietary program called “My Tree” that helps in planning for the maintenance and replacement of trees, according to Rosenbaum. Satellite pictures are used to create a map of a person’s property. The maps are inspected, then additional color-coded maps and a coordinated spreadsheet are created. Finally, an arborist’s report summarizes the state of the trees and a suggested course of action.
In some cases there are even opportunities in the great outdoors for those with construction experience. Green Planet Landscaping plans and installs landscaping, but also specializes in outdoor living spaces, which means having workers that can do masonry work or lay tile and stone.
In fact, having a diverse background can only help someone looking for a career in the landscaping business, notes Green Planet Landscaping owner Damon Lang. This can mean everything from being able to “jump on a Bobcat” loader and use it properly, to having office experience in areas such as customer service, social media, accounting and marketing, he said.
He also points to training courses such as those offered through the Southern Nevada Water Authority on Water Smart landscaping and, in the case of businesses like his, installer education classes through companies such as Pavestone, which manufactures concrete products.
“I think having a lot of different types of experience is a huge asset. These days it’s all about who can wear multiple hats. … To be successful in this economy you need to be able to do multiple things; that’s what we really look for these days,” Lang said.
An understanding of where the industry is heading doesn’t hurt either, including a knowledge of sustainability issues such as water conservation and the use of products that are changing the face of outdoor living.
Lang, who is also the author of “Outdoor Spaces in the Southwest” and “The Sustainable Landscape: Recycling Materials, Water Conservation” (Schiffer, 2007), notes that his company uses tiles that are made from recycled glass bottles and synthetic turf that is “100 percent recyclable.”
And finally, get that experience.
“I find the best way is getting your hands dirty and being part of a crew, to work from the bottom up.”