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Landscaping in Singapore: Introduction

I've resigned for a month now. Been sitting at home playing games and wasting money. It didn't feel good to leave because it was my first (career) love after graduation and my life really revolved around it. I loved my job, i was paid fine, i love my bosses, most of the time i feel satisfied, i am constantly challenged. It really felt like i could go on forever.

I reflected for a while. Sure there are some unhappy moments but they make up to what it is. You know, like it's all in a package, it comes together and it's fine. Ups and downs, dadada. Then why did i finally chose to resign?

I'm not sure if anyone else feels the same, but suddenly at age 25, with everything fine, i felt the need to re-evaluate my expectations. I felt like i needed to realign and confirm my future path. You can say i'm scared that i'll be stuck in the same thing forever and this is all i see, you can also say that i just want to try something new. All because, just in case. Say it's the perks of being young, say it's the perks of being privileged.

I quit at a low point without finding another job as a financial backup or potential progression. During COVID-19, when the entire world is taking a short break from hustling, it felt like the right time. I convinced myself that i needed a break. A real break that allows me to question myself wtf am i doing right now and if i can restart my career, will i choose the same thing all over again?

Ironically, while i give my all, i have commitment phobia. So, just in case i lose everything i have learnt for the past 4 years in the next 6 months or so, i'm going to publish everything i learnt here. I'm going to share with anyone who is interested while i figure out what i'm going to do next.

I've spent almost 4 years in the landscape industry and i want to slowly share them as i remember.

Let me just start with 10 facts regarding the landscape industry in Singapore:

1) In the word “Horticulture” alone, there are more than 10 types of job professions and types of work involved.

I created a table and slammed in whatever i can think of:

Of course it doesn't limit to these. But like off my head there are already so many obvious ones.

2) You don’t need a degree to get a job in this industry.

However, if you want to be certified as a specialist, you have to attend and pass relevant courses. CUGE provides professional skills training programmes for all levels of professionals and is a national training institution of the Landscape Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ).

You can say that such jobs are less preferred and you don't need someone "smart" or "educated" enough to do it. BUT you will still require basic skills which if i anyhow pick one of you SGreans here i'm pretty sure 9.5/10 of you can't do hahaha. Fight me!!

3) The landscape industry is highly dependent on foreign workers and older workers.

Again, because it is less preferred due to the nature of the works - under hot sun la... very rowdy la... not worth it la... don't know la...

51% of the total number of employees in this industry are from South Asia (India & Bangladesh) and the rest are from Singapore (44 per cent), Malaysia (3 per cent) and other countries (2 per cent). (Source)

In 2017, nearly half of the 12,000-strong landscape workforce consisted of foreigners, while the rest were Singaporeans or PRs. Of the resident workforce, nearly half were aged 41 to 62, and 8% were under 40. (Source)

Our parents generation would have appreciated this field more since they lived in kampong?

I think it's normal for us to feel like we don't belong in a place when we are outnumbered, it just adds on to the already-have-problems while coping with the working culture.

4) Landscape Maintenance is an essential services.

Look at all the grasses around you.... if maintenance is essential services for public safety, why are they uncut for so long?? Because... all the foreign workers are trapped in the dormitory in this period!! Nobody else "can" do the work. So it takes time to execute alternative measures for maintenance during this period. Isn't that sad and quite stupid that our own people don't maintain our own environment? Haha. If it hasn't been raining constantly... you think you'd still be seeing greens? Nope, it will all be brown.

The total headcount in the Landscape industry is estimated at 7,295. 6,100 of them work in Landscape Maintenance and 1,195 in Landscape Implementation. The total number of people in the industry is projected to increase to 9,118 in 2024. (Source)

5) The landscape business is subtly controlled by the government (NPARKS).

Meaning to say, rules that are relevant to landscape especially regarding public and public safety are made and controlled by NPARKS. So if you ever asked yourself why are our trees so neatly planted, it's because these officers really come down to check and make sure everything is in order! It does not come by default! I mean yes it comes by default but only because they made it default. Even for street lamp distances to the trees, they take a tape and measure. There's no agaration.

Direction & Vision of NPARKS:

  1. Conserve and restore natural ecosystems

  2. Establish world-class gardens and parks with nature

  3. Restore nature into the urban landscape

  4. Strengthen island-wide ecological and recreational connectivity

  5. Enhance veterinary care and animal management

  6. Build science and technology, and industry capacity

  7. Inspire communities to co-create and be stewards of nature (Source)

Let me just add on a bit of my opinion here. Considering what i said just now, you think at this rate our landscape will improve according to ideal vision meh? Let's be very frank la. Foreign workers come, most of them come for money. It's reasonable. At some point they will be going back to their country to serve their own country. Because it's where they belong. So what i'm trying to say is, their heart will be reserved for their own country. So we as Singaporeans we should be reserving our best interest for our country right? So if our hearts are all invested in some other areas, when will the landscape be able to improve 呢??

6) NPARKS produces annual reports yearly.

We actually do have industry reports too hahahahha. Ok this one i didn't know so i thought it would be interesting. It includes organization structure updates, Community updates, Facts & Figures, Financial statements, etc.

Stuffs like: In 2012, the Landscape industry market size was $480 million, with $391 million and $88.3 million from the Landscape Maintenance and Implementation sub-sectors respectively. Under Landscape Maintenance, $19.6 million (4 per cent of landscape industry market) was for rental and purchase of potted plants.

As of December 2016, there are more than 280 Landscape companies, 450 ISA Certified tree specialists, and 180 Certified Practising Horticulturists in the industry.

Check them out here.

7) We have an act for parks and trees.

There are rules and common practices that are implemented for public safety and aesthetics upkeep. A legit Act to provide for the planting, maintenance and conservation of trees and plants within national parks, nature reserves, tree conservation areas, heritage road green buffers and other specified areas, and for matters connected therewith.

Which also means…. These trees are protected. If you damage these trees, you will be fined!

8) You will always have a job in this industry.

I don't mean that because nobody will want this job all the time although it's also partly true lol. I meant more like, there are more than 7 million trees in our densely populated city-state. And that out of these, about 2 million are found in urban areas. In addition, there is an even greater number of bushes, climbers, ferns and grasses that are curated, and purposefully planted and maintained.

WHICH MEANS, it's actually a never ending job and criteria in Singapore, as long as we prioritize having greens :)

9) There is an association for the industry.

LIAS (formerly known as LCAS) was incorporated on 11th May 2001. The mission of LIAS is to develop and promote professionalism and quality in landscape products and services to fulfill Singapore’s vision of being a City in a Garden.

So they give out Awards of Excellence for featured implementation and maintenance projects! This encourages people to do better and gain a reputation for their company.

Of course, membership is payable.

10) The Work-Study-Diploma (WSDip) is applicable in the Landscape Industry.

You can actually find a company that you like and be attached to it while studying!

You will be matched with a job related to your discipline of study and undergo a 12- to 36-month structured training programme, depending on the programme, sector and job requirements.

The programme includes facilitated learning, on-the-job training and work-based projects, to allow you to deepen your skill sets at the workplace.

You will have an assigned mentor at the workplace and enjoy a well-structured career progression pathway, in line with the company’s talent development plan. At the end of the programme, you will receive an industry-recognised Diploma-level qualification and potential wage progression or career advancement based on performance.

While this sounds amazing to me, i hope they also sign MOU with Polytechnics and set up a Degree in SG too ya???? I had to fly to Aussie to take my degree sia.

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