Nursery and greenhouse workers (NOC 8432)

About this job

Nursery and greenhouse workers plant, cultivate and harvest trees, shrubs, flowers, greenhouse vegetables and plants.

People in this occupation:

  • work in indoor and outdoor nurseries and greenhouses
  • often work with their hands for extended periods of time
  • operate machinery, such as tractors, forklifts, skid steer loaders and specialized horticulture equipment
  • have a general knowledge of plant biology, plant diseases and insects and the ability to recognize different species
  • should enjoy working with nature, including working with flowers, plants, vegetables and trees
  • serve nursery and greenhouse customers
Common job titles
  • Christmas tree shearer / trimmer
  • horticulturist helper
  • plantscaper, interior
  • worker, forest nursery / tree grafter
  • worker, greenhouse / hydroponics
  • worker, horticulture
  • Christmas tree shearer / trimmer
  • horticulturist helper
  • plantscaper, interior
  • worker, forest nursery / tree grafter
  • worker, greenhouse / hydroponics
  • worker, horticulture

Earnings

Annual provincial median salary

$23,463

Source: 2016 Job Bank Wage data

Note:Estimated median employment income based on 2016 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))

Provincial hourly rate

  • High
  • Median
  • Low

Source: 2016 Job Bank Wage Report

Duties

Nursery and greenhouse workers perform some or all of the following duties:

  • prepare growing media, plant bulbs, seeds and cuttings, graft and bud plants, set transplants out onto the rooting media, and transplant seedlings and rooted cuttings
  • spray trees, shrubs, flowers and plants to manage specific pests
  • operate greenhouse and nursery irrigation systems to water
  • dig, harvest, transplant and prepare trees, shrubs, flowers and plants for sale and shipping
  • provide information and advice to customers on gardening and the care of trees, shrubs, flowers, plants and lawns
  • operate tractors and other equipment to fertilize, cultivate, harvest and spray fields and plants
  • maintain inventory and order materials as required
  • clean work areas

Work environment

Nursery and greenhouse workers typically work 40 hours per week, however, they may be required to work up to 60 hours per week during the peak harvesting/shipping season.

Workers may spend a large portion of their day outdoors or in climate controlled greenhouses. These workers can be at risk for heat exhaustion when working outdoors in summer months for extended periods of time. Cold temperatures may also be experienced.

Specialized workers (those who have pest applicators certificates) are required to work with hazardous chemicals, so they are required to wear safety equipment such as face masks, safety glasses, and protective gloves and clothing. Non-certified workers are not exposed to pesticides as nursery and greenhouse operations follow strict rules enforced by WorkSafeBC with respect to re-entry times to sprayed areas.

Nursery and greenhouse workers do a variety of jobs, including plant potting, shipping, receiving, propagation and harvesting.

Greenhouse workers mainly work with their hands during the picking of greenhouse vegetables or flowers, using a variety of specialty tools. This may lead to repetitive motion injuries, such as tendonitis and bursitis.

Some workers may be required lift heavy objects. As such, workers must maintain an adequate level of physical fitness and take precautions when lifting heavy objects in order to avoid back or other injuries.

Increased attention to safety within this industry has significantly lowered the risk of workplace injuries and ailments.

Job requirements

Education, training & qualifications

Completion of secondary school may be required to work in these occupations. On-the-job training is typically provided and is the most common form of training for this occupation.

Other requirements may include:

  • completion of college courses in horticulture or a related field
  • a provincial Pest Applicators Certificate for employees who apply chemical fertilizers and pesticides

WorkSafeBC and the British Columbia Landscape and Nursery Association have developed a safety and training manual that is used to educate retail greenhouse and nursery workers about workplace hazards and safe working practices.

Workers may also expand their knowledge base and improve their skills through:

  • one- to five-day training sessions and educational seminars offered through HortEducationBC, the industry training authority for the horticultural sector in B.C.
  • educational materials and testing for longer term programs from HortEducationBC, such as the horticulture journey person program and several other professional designations

These programs are not mandatory for individuals working in this occupational group, however, they may assist in career path development.

First aid and Pest Applicator certification are not necessary in order to work in this occupation, but can help workers in this field. Previous experience operating machinery is also beneficial.

Skills

  • Manual Dexterity
  • Spatial Perception
  • Object-Oriented
  • Motor Coordination
View skills definitions

Education programs in B.C.

The following program areas are related to this occupation:
  • Adult Special Education

For more information about programs offered specifically for this career, visit EducationPlannerBC.

Select a region to view regional outlook
Vancouver Island / Coast Mainland / Southwest Thompson-Okanagan Kootenay Cariboo Northeast North Coast & Nechako
Cariboo
Employment in 2016:
100
Average annual employment growth:
0.0%
Expected number of job openings:
30
Kootenay
Employment in 2016:
90
Average annual employment growth:
-1.6%
Expected number of job openings:
10
Mainland / Southwest
Employment in 2016:
1,960
Average annual employment growth:
0.5%
Expected number of job openings:
450
North Coast & Nechako
Employment in 2016:
20
Average annual employment growth:
N/A
Expected number of job openings:
N/A
Northeast
Employment in 2016:
20
Average annual employment growth:
N/A
Expected number of job openings:
N/A
Thompson-Okanagan
Employment in 2016:
260
Average annual employment growth:
0.9%
Expected number of job openings:
100
Vancouver Island / Coast
Employment in 2016:
270
Average annual employment growth:
-0.8%
Expected number of job openings:
60

N/A - Data not available

Source: B.C. Labour Market Outlook

Insights from industry

Employment opportunities will arise primarily due to new job growth.

In recent years, B.C. greenhouse vegetable growers have faced various difficulties. Increased international competition, a high Canadian dollar, increasing energy prices, the inability of growers to obtain outside investment, and the wide availability of greenhouse grown vegetables have lead to decreased profit margins for growers. These trends will continue to have a negative effect on work opportunities for greenhouse workers in the province

In addition, improvements in greenhouse and nursery technology have led to increased automation/mechanization. Fewer unskilled workers are now needed for manual labour tasks, but more skilled workers are needed to operate equipment.

In recent years, increasing housing and commercial construction in B.C. had a positive effect on the nursery and greenhouse sector, thereby providing new work opportunities. A high level of construction activity fuelled growth in the landscaping industry, which led to increased demand for nursery and greenhouse grown plants. This trend had a positive effect on work in retail and wholesale nurseries and in greenhouses.

Many greenhouse and nursery workers left the occupation to work in other industries which offer year round employment. This was a major contributing factor to the shortage of these workers during peak seasons, particularly in rural regions. As a result, many employers hired foreign workers who came to Canada through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, which was put in place to help with shortages of unskilled labour during harvesting seasons. As a result, foreign workers accounted for a large share of nursery and greenhouse workers in B.C.

Work demand will continue to be highest in the Fraser Valley in particular, where most greenhouse and nursery operations in the province are located.

Job opportunities will be highest for experienced workers and for those who have completed horticulture related courses and training programs. Increased use of Integrated Pest Management practices will raise the demand for workers with Pest Applicator Certification.

Employment opportunities are abundant in harvesting seasons, however, full-time work throughout the year is difficult to secure without further education or extensive experience.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Workers typically begin as general labourers. After gaining extensive experience or upon completion of a post-secondary horticultural program, workers may find work as assistant pest managers, propagators, assistant growers, technical assistants, lead hand on potting, picking and shipping crews or may be hired in a sales position. Workers may also choose to become an owner/operator of their own businesses.

With additional education or training (i.e., diploma or degree in Horticulture or Horticulturalist Journeyperson apprenticeship), workers may obtain professional designations as Certified Horticultural Technicians, Certified Landscape Designers or as a Certified Landscape Professional. Individuals who complete these programs typically move into more advanced positions, such as horticultural supervisors, greenhouse managers, nursery managers, production managers, packing managers, pest management managers, growers, head propagators, or can work as sales and marketing managers. They may also work for municipal parks, golf courses or as landscaping contractors.

Additional resources