by Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM
The great news from the report is that the outlook says job opportunities are expected to be good in the landscaping industry and are going to grow faster than the average industry.
Here is a quote about the nature of work for grounds maintenance workers:
Grounds maintenance workers perform a variety of tasks necessary to achieve a pleasant and functional outdoor environment. They mow lawns, rake leaves, trim hedges and trees; plant flowers; and otherwise ensure that the grounds of houses, businesses, and parks are attractive, orderly, and healthy. They also care for indoor gardens and plantings in commercial and public facilities, such as malls, hotels, and botanical gardens.
These workers use handtools such as shovels, rakes, pruning and handsaws, hedge and brush trimmers, and axes. They also use power lawnmowers, chain saws, leaf blowers, and electric clippers. Some use equipment such as tractors and twin-axle vehicles.
Grounds maintenance workers can be divided into several specialties, including landscaping workers, groundskeeping workers, pesticide handlers, tree trimmers, and grounds maintenance supervisors. In general, these specialties have varying job duties, but in many cases their responsibilities overlap.
Landscaping workers create new functional outdoor areas and upgrade existing landscapes, but also may help maintain landscapes. Their duties include planting bushes, trees, sod, and other forms of vegetation, as well as, edging, trimming, fertilizing, watering, and mulching lawns and grounds. They also grade property by creating or smoothing hills and inclines, install lighting or sprinkler systems, and build walkways, terraces, patios, decks, and fountains. Landscaping workers provide their services in a variety of residential and commercial settings, such as homes, apartment buildings, office buildings, shopping malls, and hotels and motels.
Groundskeeping workers, also called groundskeepers, usually focus on maintaining existing grounds. In addition to caring for sod, plants, and trees, they rake and mulch leaves, clear snow from walkways and parking lots, and use irrigation methods to adjust water consumption and prevent waste. These individuals work on athletic fields, golf courses, cemeteries, university campuses, and parks, as well as many of the same settings as landscaping workers. They also see to the proper upkeep and repair of sidewalks, parking lots, groundskeeping equipment, pools, fountains, fences, planters, and benches.
Groundskeeping workers who care for athletic fields keep natural and artificial turf in top condition, mark out boundaries, and paint turf with team logos and names before events. They mow, water, fertilize, and aerate the fields regularly. They must make sure that the underlying soil on fields with natural turf has the required composition to allow proper drainage and to support the grasses used on the field. In sports venues, they vacuum and disinfect synthetic turf after its use to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, and they remove the turf and replace the cushioning pad periodically.
Groundskeepers in parks and recreation facilities care for lawns, trees, and shrubs; maintain playgrounds; clean buildings; and keep parking lots, picnic areas, and other public spaces free of litter. They also may erect and dismantle snow fences, and maintain swimming pools. These workers inspect buildings and equipment, make needed repairs, and keep everything freshly painted.
Workers who maintain golf courses are called greenskeepers. Greenskeepers do many of the same things as other groundskeepers, but they also periodically relocate the holes on putting greens to prevent uneven wear of the turf and to add interest and challenge to the game. Greenskeepers also keep canopies, benches, ball washers, and tee markers repaired and freshly painted.
Tree trimmers and pruners, sometimes called arborists, cut away dead or excess branches from trees or shrubs to clear roads, sidewalks, or utilities’ equipment, or to improve the appearance, health, and value of trees. Some specialize in diagnosing and treating tree diseases, and in performing preventive measures to keep trees healthy. Some may plant trees. Some of these workers also specialize in pruning, trimming and shaping ornamental trees and shrubs for private residences, golf courses, or other institutional grounds. Tree trimmers and pruners use handsaws, pole saws, shears, and clippers. When trimming near power lines, they usually work on truck-mounted lifts and use power pruners.
Supervisors of landscaping and groundskeeping workers oversee grounds maintenance work. They prepare cost estimates, schedule work for crews on the basis of weather conditions or the availability of equipment, perform spot checks to ensure the quality of the service, and suggest changes in work procedures. In addition, supervisors train workers; keep employees’ time records and record work performed; and may assist workers when deadlines are near. Supervisors who own their own business are also known as landscape contractors.
The employment statistics are the most interesting part of the report in my opinion. 402,000 grounds maintenance workers were self-employed and they provide landscape maintenance directly to customers on a contract basis. About 36 percent of all grounds maintenance workers were employed in companies providing landscaping services to buildings and dwellings. Here are the complete statistics on the 1.5 million grounds maintenance employees in 2008:
- 1,205,800 - Landscaping and groundskeeping workers
- 217,900 - First-line supervisors/managers of landscaping & lawn service workers
- 45,000 - Tree trimmers and pruners
- 30,800 - Pesticide handlers, sprayers, and applicators, vegetation
- 21,100 - Grounds maintenance workers, all other