Helping Ontario High School Students Get Green

Landscaping business financially supports high school students in green industries classes to create an educated workforce he can hire in the future.
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Green Industries
Loyalty Program

• Landscaping Horticulture

Kitchener - Ontario - Canada


June 18, 2012 - PRLog -- Big business likes to align itself with higher education. In Waterloo Region there is almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the support that successful companies gives to the universities and colleges.  From 23-year-old entrepreneurs donating $1 million to the University of Waterloo or global engineering firms supplying $4 million worth of electronic courseware to Conestoga College, it seems almost quaint when a small business chooses to throw its money and support behind high school students. Especially since the support is intended to help these high school students get out of class and into digging dirt, creating gardens, pruning orchards and tending to goats. But that’s exactly what Rob Tester of TNT Property Maintenance is doing as his company assists high school students learn about horticulture and environmental stewardship.

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,” says Tester, who employees 12 highly trained landscape specialists in his property maintenance business, including two apprentices straight from high school.

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), they knew that with educational funding cuts, the horticulture program did not have the equipment they need to meet the demand of this rapidly growing, provincially recognized program. In order to help Pat Rittinger, the head of the KCI’s Green Industries program, purchase the equipment and feed his program requires (KCI also has two goats and six laying hens) Tester implemented a loyalty program this year that would see 2% rebate of the dollar value of KCI supporter purchases from TNT Property being donated to the school’s Green Industries program.

“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.

Media Contact Information: Contact: Rob Tester, Phone: 519-895-0450
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Tags:Workforce, Students, Green Industries, Loyalty Program
Industry:Landscaping Horticulture
Location:Kitchener - Ontario - Canada
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