In the United States, both the nursery (Hall et al., 2005) and landscape industries [Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), 2013a] continue to grow. Statistics from the July 2012 IBIS World market report showed that the green industry had annual revenues of $61 billion, employed 899,958 people, and represented 416,991 businesses (PLANET, 2013a). Garden and landscaping services is a major component of the green industry. In 2009 alone, 72.3% of the total market revenue for the year was attributed to garden/lawn landscaping services (PLANET, 2013a). A Global Industry Analysts report from 2010 forecast that the landscaping services market in the United States was expected to recover from the economic downturn and is poised to reach $80.06 billion by 2015 (PLANET, 2013a). This type of recent and projected growth supports the need for a large and increasing workforce.
A well-educated nursery and landscape workforce is essential to support the growing green industry. Numerous professional development opportunities are available to industry members and these include programs provided by both professional associations and educational institutions. A number of collaborations also exist between U.S. state Cooperative Extension Services and professional green industry associations to provide educational programming to industry members (Justen et al., 2009; Kratsch et al., 2008; Scoggins et al., 2004; VanDerZanden et al., 2006). In an effort to codify this educational training some state nursery and landscape associations provide a professional certification program. In addition, there is a national certification program available through PLANET (2013b). Most often certification is voluntary, but in some cases, it is required by governing boards that issue licensure (North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association, 2013). The variety of skills required, job types, and company sizes within the nursery and landscape professions makes for a diverse industry. This diversity combined with a lack of regulatory licensing can lead to an assortment of quality control issues in the industry. Education, even if it is not tied to licensure, can be a key part of overcoming this problem (PLANET, 2013b).
Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association membership surveys in 2005, 2008, and 2010 showed there was a need for continuing education opportunities for their membership. Further, members wanted programming that was flexible and that could accommodate their schedule. To meet this documented need, two online training programs were developed. The first was a set of 20 online training modules to prepare INLA members for ICNP exam. The second was a series of advanced training webinars that cover emerging issues in the green industry.
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