For the last 10 years, Tester has made it part of his business philosophy to bring horticultural expertise to the secondary school curriculum and create opportunities for young people to excel in this industry. From founding the Annual Regional Landscape Skills Competition for Secondary Students to chairing the Waterloo Region District School Board’s landscape/horticulture advisory council or organizing Skills Ontario competitions for landscape students, Tester thrives on seeing young men and women blossom into avid horticulturists as they immerse themselves into the hands-on world of landscaping.
“Helping to give these kids an opportunity to learn about environmental stewardship and about creating living, growing spaces and knowing that some of them will continue this as a career or as a life long hobby, is very fulfilling,”
The landscape industry in Canada is a growing one, and the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association is predicting the growth areas to be in residential landscape, renovation and construction, followed by a focus on providing an aging population with landscape services and sustainable green practices.
It’s these sustainable green practices and the need for an skilled workforce that inspired Tester to dream up a new way to help Kitchener Collegiate Institute with their “Green Industries” program. Having adopted KCI as their school to assist (they also provide a landscape scholarship for a worthy student entering apprenticeship)
“The rebate money will help Pat Rittinger buy the supplies he needs to run this program successfully, and people will feel good about making a difference simply by purchasing landscaping products or services they were buying anyway,” says Tester. “It’s a proverbial win-win situation.”
Rittinger says his class has grown in popularity since it was first proposed by the local landscape industry eight years ago. While most students taking the class go onto college or university for other programs, the hands-on nature of the Green Industries class is hugely appreciated. Students learn everything from landscaping and school property maintenance to planting and maintaining an orchard, a community garden, operating a green house and selling the produce at a market day to plow back into the program’s operating costs. Over the summer the goats are to be bred with a plan to use the milk to make cheese, says Rittinger.
“I have six sections with over 200 students taking part in this program and my entire budget from the school board is only $2200 for the whole year,” said Rittinger. “We couldn’t do it without TNT Property’s help and this loyalty rebate program will help us buy feed for the animals, seed, fertilizer, shovels and the equipment the kids need in this class.”
Rittinger estimates that four or five students go on each year to choose a “green industry” as their career, while hundreds more have a new appreciation and knowledge of environmental stewardship.
Supporters of KCI can obtain Loyalty Cards through KCI, or TNT Property Maintenance in Kitchener. Other schools, churches or organizations or associations can also set up their own loyalty program through TNT Property so their cause can benefit as well, says Tester.
About: TNT Property Maintenance is a landscaping and maintenance contractor that offers unique Design/Build Outdoor Spaces, quality lawn / garden care, winter snow plowing services and exterior repairs. http://tntpropertymaintenance.com
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