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Developing Your Team Through an Apprenticeship Program

NALP’s Apprenticeship Program offers job seekers a path to a new career through a paid apprenticeship with a landscape company that includes on-the-job training. The program, first introduced in February 2019, is now beginning to turn out and registered companies are beginning to have individuals complete their apprenticeship.

New Garden Landscaping & Nursery Inc, based in Greensboro, North Carolina, says they registered in the program to offer growth options for their employees. They offer the program to any employee who has been with the company for at least six months.

When they first introduced the program, New Garden says there was a lot of interest from employees, mixed with apprehension.

Belknap Landscape, based in Gilford, New Hampshire, had been searching for apprenticeship programs locally.

“Ultimately, having a successful program meant building it essentially from the ground up,” says Mike Normandin, Belknap’s apprenticeship mentor. “Once we learned of the NALP program and researched it, it was clear that it provided the platform and schedule that worked.”

Belknap offers the apprenticeship to employees who express an interest in continuing to work in the field.

“I think most people were excited to hear it was being considered,” Normandin says. “For the first round, we only offered to send one individual through, enabling us to get a feel for the program and decide who may benefit from future offerings.”

Benefits of Apprenticeship

Normandin says for the employee who is going through the program, it has brought a new level of conceptual understanding, critical thinking, problem-solving and overall direction on the jobsite.

“If they are frustrated with the experience level of employees or prospects, they owe it to themselves to try the program,” Normandin says. “I’m 50 years old, I started landscaping when I was 10 because my father specialized in building housing developments. Most kids and young adults are not exposed to this type of work. Where can they go to learn horticulture, to construct landscapes, irrigate or proper maintenance of landscaped areas? Our answer is NALP.”

He says the program allows for learning on both ends and he often engages with other employees during teaching moments with the apprentice.

“As a trainer for Belknap Landscape Company, I don’t always have the time to go into detail regarding tasks,” Normandin says. “However, with the apprenticeship program online learning modules, I find that the apprentice now has background knowledge in many areas, which leads to direct understanding of more complicated tasks. In other words, he knows before I even have to teach him.”

“It allows employees to add skills from across the industry, making them more valuable to their employer,” New Garden says. “It offers the company an opportunity to promote mentors, educators and raise awareness in their workforce that they want and need young enthusiastic employees to rise up.”

Barbara White, flower program manager for New Garden and an apprentice in the program, says it trained her well and let her know what areas of the industry she is not interested in.

“The apprenticeship has given me the aptitude and skill to move seamlessly between departments and assist wherever needed,” White says. “In that regard, I consider myself a success.”

White says anyone in the program becomes an asset to the company they work for.

“They will know where to research information quickly and efficiently and will have a multitude of experts in various fields they can lean on as well,” she says.

Advice for Others

New Garden says companies should expect to struggle in the beginning.

“While the content is all laid out for you, it’s up to each company to tailor it to their own specifications,” New Garden says. “Take it slow, listen to what your apprentice discovers as they maneuver through the program’s requirements. Assigning proper mentors is key.”

Normandin says picking the right apprenticeship candidates is important as well.

“Make them own a part of the commitment and keep tabs on their classroom progress,” he says. “Give them praise and encouragement during the process as milestones are met.”

While they are still in the early stages of using the program, Normandin says they can see the positive effects of the program already.

“I can only image we will continue with it and I would like to see it (or a portion of it) as a required element of promotions, raises, etc.,” he says.

Want to participate in the NALP Apprenticeship Program? Go to landscape
for more information.

This article was published in the Jan/Feb issue of the magazine.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the content manager for NALP.

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