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For 30 of the past 40 years at James Martin Associates (JMA), we have offered internships and scholarships to students in the fields of horticulture, landscape architecture, forestry, agricultural management, landscape management and construction management. Both efforts significantly help with recruiting and hiring qualified talent.

Recruiting interns.

There are several ways to recruit interns at the high school and college level. We attend national and state career fairs such as those offered by the National Association of Landscape Professionals and the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association. We attend local job fairs at high schools and colleges as well.

Another way we recruit is by forming strong relationships with teachers and professors who recommend us to their students and even allow us to present our company and current openings with students in their classes. Some of our employees have taught horticultural and landscape architecture classes, which in turn further promotes the kind of work we do at JMA.

A good recruiting tool to take advantage of is social media. Having a presence on social media and posting positions on platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook boost awareness. We’ll send periodic email blasts to our clients to let them know about our newest opportunities, too.

In general, the best time to recruit students about internship opportunities is between September and March. We have found that the best students want to receive job commitments earlier rather than later. For smaller companies, the off-season is a great time to try to connect with professors to make introductions. Instructors love to connect with even small companies. Offer to provide a project for a design class and then return in a few weeks to judge the class results.

Engaging interns.

Currently, JMA offers four to six internships at both our Illinois and Colorado locations. We hire four to five field interns and one office intern who works with the design teams and recently we had an intern work with our finance team.

The field interns work on crews where they gain hands-on experience by rotating through departments, including residential maintenance, commercial maintenance, design/build as well as irrigation.

Once our interns complete a three-month seasonal internship, they are evaluated for future opportunities with the company such as scholarships, apprenticeships and operation associate positions. Exceptional interns are either offered an operations associate position upon completion of their final year in school or they are offered a scholarship or apprenticeship opportunity.

It is important to let the interns shadow the owner or designer at least a few times. If you really like the intern, make a concrete offer before they head back to school. The interns will then know they are appreciated and have confidence that their career is jump-started.

Giving back to students.

We also support several scholarships. JMA donated $25,000 to NALP, which has funded 15 scholarships for students of landscape architecture and horticulture. Keep in mind: scholarships are like the lifeblood of the educational system. Many students graduate with tremendous debt that may take years and years to pay off. Scholarships help minimize this huge burden. They also help attract high-quality individuals to a landscape education. For many, once they are exposed to this line of work, they stay in the industry for the rest of their lives. Our industry needs thousands of high-quality individuals and scholarships are like seeds for industry growth.

a purpose.

JMA’s internship and apprenticeship program have led to many successes. For instance, Cris Poggi began her career here as an operations associate 25 years ago. Today, she serves as general manager of residential maintenance and a vice president. Also, Scott Natter started as a JMA intern in 2007. Today, he is the general manager at our LID Landscapes location in Boulder, Colorado.

Looking back on a 40-year business career, one of the things I’m most proud of is the quality and character of not only the current team associates who have contributed to our success, but also the contributions that many former interns and associates have made throughout the industry.

James P. Martin is the president of Illinois-based James Martin Associates.