Kids these days. We feed them, house them, educate them. We teach them right from wrong and try to instill a healthy respect for hard work and responsibility. And when the time comes to help them launch their careers, we lose them to high-tech jobs with air conditioning and flexible hours.
We may think that labor challenges are a modern problem, but let’s look back to a century ago. The sentiment’s been echoing through the years – 100 of them – and likely will continue to do so for decades to come.
Here, from June 1913 issue of American Nurseryman’s great (great-great?) grandfather, The National Nurseryman:
The Need of Skilled and Trained Help
The need of skilled and trained help is one of the most vital in the nursery business. It is perhaps not so pressing among the fruit tree growers as among those nurseries which carry a mixed line. The Colleges, Experimental Stations and Horticultural Schools are doing what they can but they do not turn out trained craftsmen, such as is produced by an apprenticeship to the business.
The process of education is wrong. The book learning and science is all right, but when it is dominant it unfits a man for practical commercial work.
Could the process of education be reversed and the young man after leaving the high school be apprenticed to a nursery for three or four years and then take a course of Horticulture, including chemistry, physics and botany at one of the colleges we should have more proficient nurserymen.
The need of skilled labor is even more pressing and the nurseryman is at a disadvantage in training it. Few nurseries can afford to carry sufficient men all the year round to really take care of the work during the busy season, in the way they would like to see it handled.
In the vicinity of large cities where a man can get $2.00 or $3.00 a day at unskilled labor, such as conductor on a street car, it is difficult to hold men even with the assurance of steady employment.
There should be more inducements to boys to take up nursery work; more consideration should be given them in regard to hours, Saturday afternoons and those small things that loom so large in the eyes of youth.
Many a good nurseryman has been lost because a factory of some other employment allowed of Saturday afternoon to play ball.
Conditions on the nurseries have been very much like those on the farm, unattractive to youth. If boys can be induced to work on the nursery a good proportion will stick to the business, especially if encouragement is given them as they begin to look at the future.
All progressive businesses are recognizing the fact that they must cater to the advancement and comfort of their employees, because it pays.