Jan. 6 2020 07:26 AM

The apprenticeship program is aimed at attracting young people to green industry jobs.

Three New Jersey landscape companies are taking advantage of the Fairfax, Virginia-based National Association of Landscape Professionals’ new Landscape Management Apprenticeship Program, according to an article by NJBIZ.

RPM Landscape Contractor LLC of Absecon, Hewson Landscape Inc. of Plainfield and Fullerton Grounds Maintenance of Kenvil are implementing the U.S. Department of Labor-registered program aimed at attracting young adults to the green industry and retaining them within it.

Jennifer Myers, director of workforce development at NALP, says in the story that the two-year apprenticeship training is focused on landscape installation and maintenance as well as irrigation. It offers pathways to lifelong careers in a rewarding industry in which there is a high demand for workers.

At a time when the high cost of college education is a barrier to many, an apprenticeship program provides an alternative, Myers says in the article. “Apprentice programs have been around for a long time. Even if people do not know landscaping, they know apprenticeships. You are working while you are earning money. The apprenticeship program is a more formalized way to get folks into our industry. By putting someone in the program, you are investing in them.”

Participating employers will provide 2,000 hours of on-the-job training in 17 competencies. In addition, apprentices will receive another 144 hours of classroom-style or online instruction from Colorado State University. Employers can apply for funding from state governments to pay for expenses incurred in the training, according to Myers.

Scott Fullerton, owner of Fullerton Grounds Maintenance, will be sending four employees into the apprenticeship program. “It is helping us recruit kids graduating from college,” Fullerton says in the story. “We will teach you and pay you to learn.”

Fullerton adds in the story that the horticulture industry affords tremendous career opportunities. The NALP apprenticeship program is designed to be comprehensive. He says, “If you complete this apprenticeship, after 2,000 hours you are going to be a well-rounded individual. When you are awarded an apprenticeship certificate from Fullerton Grounds Maintenance, we would like that to have some substance and meaning.”

In the article, Myers explains that NALP has worked with colleges for decades to try and recruit people into the landscaping and horticulture industries. To further that aim, the association hosts an annual national collegiate landscape competition. In March 2020, it will mark its 44th anniversary.

“It is a landscaping Olympics,” Myers says in the article, adding that she herself competed in the event 20 years ago while a college student. “There are 29 competitive events that cover anything you can do in our industry, from operating equipment, to design, to plant identification to irrigation. Competing in it gives your own program some validity and helps you feel like you made a good choice.” She adds that participating in events like this can open doors to careers in landscaping or horticulture.

In addition to the apprenticeship program and the collegiate competition, NALP awards $110,000 per year in scholarships to American and Canadian college students studying landscaping or horticulture.