Why Should a Landscape Pro Consider an Apprenticeship Program?

For many industries, apprenticeship programs are creating viable workforce solutions. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 5 million people will be trained through apprenticeships in 1,000 industries over the next five years. Today, with the formalization of NALP’s Landscape Management Apprenticeship Program, registered by the U.S. Department of Labor, the green industry is a part of that growing trend.

While the overarching “reason” for becoming part of the apprenticeship program is to bolster one’s workforce with qualified applicants, we know every company has its own more specific reasons—and goals—for the program. We asked several of the companies that have already signed on to share with us what they hope to achieve by offering an apprenticeship.

Why Offer an Apprenticeship Reason #1: Not Everyone is Fit for the Traditional College Route

Chapman “Chappy” Manzer, owner of Manzer’s Landscape Design and Development Inc., in Peekskill, New York, has a master’s degree. But it took him some time to learn that he really didn’t like working in an office. He liked being outside—which is why he started a landscape business. Now, he’s looking to potentially save people like him a lot of time and money by recognizing early on if they’re not fit for the traditional college track and office job.

“The truth is, there are some really great workers out there—bright people—who just aren’t fit for traditional college,” Manzer says. “But they might think there’s no other way. I think the apprenticeship program is showing them that other way. Landscaping can be a great career. But it often gets a bad rap as a job in which you can’t make a living. That’s just not the case.”

Manzer is a huge proponent of education and thinks that education is what makes people better at what they do. It doesn’t have to be a traditional education, such as a four-year college track, followed by an office job.

He sums it up: “We signed up for the apprenticeship program because we believe it will provide an alternative career path for those who might have otherwise been college bound just because that’s what they felt they had to do.”

Why Offer an Apprenticeship Reason #2: It Will Increase Your Applicant Pool

Dan Eichenlaub, president of Eichenlaub Inc., in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, says launching the apprenticeship program at his company is opening up a whole new pool of candidates he didn’t have access to before. This was largely because of the way in which people perceive the landscape profession. Eichenlaub says the biggest gatekeeper holding promising students back from a career in the industry is often their parents.

“In the past, parents just weren’t that impressed by their child telling them they were going to graduate high school and get a job in landscaping,” Eichenlaub says. “To them, this was a step backwards. But now, with the apprenticeship program, I’m getting access to students I didn’t have access to before. Suddenly, their parents are recognizing that this can be an impressive career.”

Eichenlaub says many parents just don’t know what this industry is all about. Getting their “acceptance” has always been a challenge. Because apprenticeships are well-known in their region and have been popular with other industries, they have been a vital in-road for the industry.

“It’s important to think of the influencers in a student/potential hire’s life,” Eichenlaub says. “It’s usually the parents and peers. You don’t only have to win over that qualified applicant but also the people who influence their decisions. We feel the apprenticeship program is already doing that for us.”

Why Offer an Apprenticeship Reason #3: It Might Actually Become a Requirement for Some Jobs

As apprenticeships across various industries—and across the country—gain traction, some entities are including the program in their specifications. This has already happened to Sebert Landscape. The company, which has seven locations in Illinois and Wisconsin, hadn’t been fully aware of the Landscape Management Apprenticeship Program. But then a bid specification listed it as a requirement.

“We were going to bid on a county project and needed to meet that requirement—which lead us to researching the program and signing on,” explains Kim Riebel, the company’s director of marketing and business development. “We think it’s a great idea. Everyone is struggling to find good labor. This program will help facilitate the training of individuals who want to take this career seriously and move to the next level.”

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