Queens, NY – Just over one year ago, Queens Botanical Garden and LaGuardia Community College launched a collaborative workforce development initiative, the Green Jobs Training Program. Today, these partners announced the impressive results of the first year of the program, which has trained 215 participants. Moreover, in the workforce development field where a 50% job placement rate is considered successful, fully 63% of the Green Jobs Training Program graduates have obtained jobs.
These days, when people say they want to be “greener,” almost everyone knows what they mean. In fact, entire industries are being created around the principles of environmental consciousness and sustainability practices. With that comes the demand for workers who are not only aware of these issues, but are trained in the proper skills as well.
Queens Botanical Garden and LaGuardia Community College are responding to this demand with the Green Jobs Training Program. The two institutions have collaborated to develop a program that prepares individuals to work in companies that have or want to develop green practices. Funding from the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to Queens Botanical Garden supports this workforce development initiative. The Council for Airport Opportunity is also partnering on this program.
The program, which targets those who are unemployed and underemployed, introduces basic concepts of sustainability and provides the necessary skills to work in the following areas:
- Green Cleaning & Housekeeping: Participants acquire necessary skills to maintain a high indoor environmental quality to protect the health of building occupants through proper and environmentally sustainable cleaning practices.
- Waste Management: Participants explore appropriate strategies for waste reduction; safety and efficiency in handling and processing; source separation for material reclamation and recycling; and proper disposal.
- Sustainable Landscape Design & Maintenance: Participants review the basics of sustainable landscape design, plant selection, soil conservation and remediation techniques, Integrated Pest Management, and urban agriculture.
The Green Jobs Training Program also assists participants in building job readiness skills, prepares them to apply for green jobs, and connects them with employers.
“I’ve always been interested in this topic, and when green jobs came about, I wanted to be part of it,” says Aisha Smith. When she realized that she could actually get training in the field, she saw her opportunity.
Soon after completing the Green Cleaning & Housekeeping module in February, Ms. Smith got a full time position with Tri-State Biodiesel, LLC earning $16 an hour. Tri-State Biodiesel converts used cooking oil from restaurants to biodiesel, a carbon neutral alternative to petroleum diesel. As a customer service representative, Aisha maintains customer accounts in the database, communicates information for pick-ups and dispatches drivers, among other things.
Aisha says the Green Jobs Training Program has given her an edge and has been invaluable in helping her understand the whole topic of sustainability. “The most important thing I learned is my impact on the environment, that one person could have such an impact,” she says. “Not only did the program help me find a job; it also put me in a better position to contribute to a healthy environment.”
Andy DiMarino, owner of ADM Landscape Corporation in Kew Gardens, has hired several Green Jobs Training Program graduates. “You’re getting people who are interested and involved in the green industry already. And they’re very enthusiastic,” he explains.
Patty Kleinberg, who directs the Green Jobs Training Program at Queens Botanical Garden, commented, “Our goal is to empower trainees to enter the green workforce with the ability to grow as technology and demand evolves. Green Jobs staff use effective training techniques and hands-on experiences often times under the mentorship of a working green professional in order to prepare trainees for employment.”
To get a handle on the green jobs market, program staff use software that gathers up-to-date information on hiring trends and job requirements. This real-time labor market data informs them on specific job opportunities and the skills employers are looking for.
“The Green Jobs Training Program gives participants an edge in the workforce by taking their existing skill set and applying the principles of sustainability,” says Kate Kitchener, Sustainability Coordinator of the Green Jobs Training Program at LaGuardia Community College. “This makes them very marketable in a rapidly changing labor market.”
Other companies that have hired graduates of the Green Jobs Training Program include waste management industry leaders Sims Metal Management and Waste Management Inc.; Facility Value Inc. and Greenhouse Eco-Cleaning in the area of green cleaning and housekeeping; and City Gardens of New York in the area of sustainable landscape design and maintenance. In addition, Dynamic Solar Panels and Family Energy Inc., green energy companies, have also drawn upon the program for employees.
Foreseeing a bright future, Ms. Smith hopes to stay with Tri-State Biodiesel as they expand their business to other parts of the country. “I’d like to grow with this company,” she notes.
Manuel Reynoso, a graduate from the Sustainable Landscape Design & Maintenance module, says the program instructors “opened my eyes to a whole world that I didn’t know.”
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Members of the press are cordially invited to attend the Graduation of the 10th class of Green Jobs program participants to be held Friday, December 14 at 4:00 pm in the auditorium of the Visitor & Administration Building at Queens Botanical Garden.
Queens Botanical Garden is an urban oasis where people, plants and cultures are celebrated through inspiring gardens, innovative educational programs and demonstrations of environmental stewardship. Located at 43-50 Main Street in Flushing, Queens Botanical Garden is easily accessible by car, train, or bus. For travel directions and more information visit www.queensbotanical.org or call (718) 886-3800. Queens Botanical Garden is located on property owned by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.