There’s a lot of pessimism circulating about the future of floristry.
The Department of Labor reported that there were 62,400 florists in 2012 and predicted that their ranks would decrease by 8 percent in 10 years.
The DOL attributes this drop to consumers’ shifting buying habits, foregoing formal designs for grab and go bunches at the grocery store — or opting for non-floral gifts entirely.
Florists tend to add another reason. The industry is slowly dying, they say, as the workforce ages without new young workers to take up the reigns.
If this is the reality at your shop, then we have some good news for you.
Meet Carly-Jean Schaeffer, an agriculture education student at Penn State who’s teaching about 20 teenagers at Derry High School the art of floral design and how to operate a shop.
The students, split pretty evenly by gender, are riveted, Schaeffer said.
“High school’s hard,” she said. “There’s so much social drama going on, and this helps them de-stress. They love expressing themselves with flowers and thinking about how to run a business.”
Several of the students have taken the class multiple times, she said. Their goals have evolved from earning ribbons in floral competitions to finding a full-time position when they graduate. (Are you smiling now?)
The class provides the kids a ton of hands on practice. For one, they run a functioning flower shop, The Trojan Florist, at the school, which is especially busy for Valentine’s Day, homecoming and prom. Students take sales calls, manage their inventory, give the showroom visual merchandising, and make the designs.
Schaeffer also gives them real-world assignments, like putting together an end-of-year banquet and staging a mock wedding.
“The wedding was probably the most fun,” she said. “We picked colors, a theme and a budget.” The students divided into teams and had to come up with corsages, boutonnieres, altarpieces and bouquets to fit all of the above.
“The flowers didn’t arrive in a timely manner for one of the groups and they were scrambling,” she said. “That’s real life, though!” Students adjusted by making as much as they could in advance and considering substitutions.
“More than anything, I want them to be career ready,” Schaeffer said. Her reading assignments include feature articles from Floral Management, so students get detailed how-to guides on topics such as productivity, delivery, sales, technology, customer service and marketing. She also has students put together portfolios of their designs to show potential employers.
“This isn’t just a hobby or an elective course for most of them,” she said. “They want to be florists when they grow up.”
Here’s what a few of Schaeffer’s students have to say about the class and their aspirations:
“I am beyond excited to be able to create art using flowers. I hope to eventually be able to make someone smile by an arrangement I have made. I would like to learn how to make arrangements that are out of the classic design. I am super excited. I’ve waited three years to have room to take this class.” -Jess Barnhart
“Floral Design is a place to be as creative as possible! Learning the best ways to arrange the flowers and having a meaning behind it! I also want to learn more flower names. Grow beyond my knowledge of plants in other areas than a greenhouse. Just having creative time for myself.” -Arlyn Smith
“I love floral, ever since I started in 4th when I was 10, I’ve been wanting my own business. Every holiday I make floral arrangements for my close family members.” -Katie Frye
“To me floral design means a sense of creativity as I experiment with arrangements. I am excited to learn about the course and to get to know Ms. Schaeffer over the year. I plan to continue in the ag/hort field and I hope floral design will open new doors for me in my future.”
“Floral design to me is very relaxing. When I make things and work with flowers, the bright colors change my mood. Not only that, but the flowers are pretty. I learn patience and neatness as well. If I don’t use floral design in my future, it’s a really fun class!”
“Floral design is an art form to me. I love the smell of fresh flowers and the fact that I can never stop improving an arrangement. Taking this class has helped me in my volunteer work for my cousin at her flower shop and it opens up a job opportunity for me.”
To learn more about the program and to inquire about your shop’s next superstar employee, shoot Schaeffer an email.