While the coronavirus pandemic has led to mass unemployment nationwide (with food and hospitality industries being among the hardest hit), many plant-based industries— from vegetable farms to tree care companies and nurseries to landscape maintenance companies— are seeing demand for their services grow. Over the course of the fall of 2020 and into early 2021, with strategy support and project management from KK&P, the Rhode Island Nursery & Landscape Association (RINLA) will be working to recruit displaced workers, unemployed people, career-changers, students who’ve elected not to distance-learn, and others and match them with jobs available in green industries.
This initiative – called Growing Futures— is part of Governor Gina Raimondo’s Back to Work initiative, announced in late summer and funded by the CARES Act. It builds on several years of focused workforce programming by RINLA, including the first-in-the-nation multi-employer Registered Apprenticeship program KK&P supported this client to develop.
The work is beginning with a robust, video- and audio-rich marketing and community outreach campaign to promote the abundance and diversity of jobs in plant-based industries, jobs that pay well, engage people with land and place, and provide pathways into careers. In late October and throughout the fall, RINLA will put on three multi-step Job Fair “matchmaking” processes, through which RINLA will screen candidates and match them to businesses that fit their interests, skills, location, and availability. At the same time, the RINLA/Growing Futures Back to Work team will engage an extensive network of agencies and community-based organizations contracted to provide wraparound services—such as support for transportation, rent, and childcare— to help people who want to work get back to work.
As matches between candidates and employers reveal themselves, RINLA will coordinate virtual job interviews for participating employers following a “speed-dating” model, bringing a hand-selected group of candidates in for brief, virtual interviews with employers—translating a model that RINLA piloted in-person in 2018 and 2019 into the digital, distance realm.
While some candidates may be placed in available jobs immediately, RINLA is toiling behind the scenes to translate its anchor Apprenticeship training program into a hybrid (online and hands-on in small pods) entry level training program to prepare other candidates for a boom of hiring in late winter and early spring: growing new careers as a new season sprouts.