WHY THEY'RE GREAT:
American Floral Endowment’s internships are a key part in preparing the next generation of the horticulture industry. Horticulture student Mary Lewis says the AFE’s Vic & Margaret Ball internship program is “a lot like having a job, but with training wheels attached,” in a video promoting the program. This scholarship in particular sets up undergraduate hort students with paid, three-to-six month internships. In addition to placement, AFE requires periodic check-ins from students’ professors, and also organizes internship matches outside of students’ home states to empower development beyond horticulture skills.
Another AFE offering that is making an impact is the Mosmiller Intern Scholarship Program, specifically designed for those geared toward horticulture retail. And last year, AFE debuted a business program aimed at recruiting non-horticulture majors to get involved in the industry.
“Our trustees are out there every day at industry events, says Debi Chedester, AFE’s executive director. “And that’s the top challenge: finding people.”
Greenhouse Management: In 2016, are you still getting the number of applicants you’d like for the internships? And does needing to support a declining workforce make the need for your internships even more important?
Debi Chedster: Absolutely [it does]. We don’t have the same numbers in production as we once had, and that’s a huge challenge just because the number of students taking those classes and wanting to be in the industry has shrunk. The number of universities offering horticulture [programs] has decreased as well. They’re still good numbers — we still award 15 to 20 internships a year — but it’s a shrinking field.
GM: What do you think attracts students to your program?
DC: We really cater to the student and faculty, and make sure we handle everything. We help find housing for them and walk them all the way through it so their parents are comfortable, the faculty are comfortable and the students are comfortable. We really spend a lot of time making sure it’s a perfect fit. We talk about goals and objectives and what they want to learn, so it matches with the host employer. [We] coach them all the way through.
GM: What is the process like to find the right fit for the student?
DC: When a student applies, they tell us exactly what they are looking for. And from there, we have a database of businesses that participate in our programs. Then, we match based on what students want to do and what our host employers need. And if there isn’t a match, we reach out to other businesses in the industry that maybe haven’t participated at all, so there is a match for both [students and employers].