The American Landscape Institute (ALI) is a new concept to bring industry and academia together to provide leadership and training to the next generation of horticultural professionals. The ultimate purpose is to develop a highly-trained workforce for the landscape industry, while offering an opportunity for students seeking a horticulture career with significant growth potential.
A group of landscape and nursery companies based in the Baltimore, Md., area created this concept to help find a local solution to solving the skilled labor shortage.
“This takes a different approach to solving the current labor problem and any future problem filling management positions,” says Alan Jones, president of Manor View Farm in Monkton, Md. Jones is on the ALI board of directors.
Students will receive hands-on field experience and mentoring from participating companies, as well as classroom education from the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), which allow them to become highly skilled in advanced landscape and horticulture techniques. Students work at the participating companies Monday through Thursday and attend classes on Friday. Students will earn a Certificate in Landscape Design and Installation from CCBC after two years or an Associate’s Degree in Sustainable Horticulture from CCBC after three years. Ultimately, program graduates should have the management training to serve as a first-line supervisor, and graduates will be matched with an area company for employment immediately after graduation. Starting management salaries in the Baltimore area range from $40,000 to $60,000 per year, according to Andreas Grothe, the program’s founder and owner of New World Gardens.
“This is how I was educated in Germany. This program gives students an affordable option for education and provides our industry with the workforce we need,” says Grothe.
The program’s participating companies pay 80 percent of the tuition. For example, if two years of tuition costs $7,297, the partnering companies pay $5,824 and the student pays $1,456. The students are responsible for 100 percent of the costs of textbooks.
“This is a first-of-its-kind training program for our industry, and we’re happy to be a part of it and help develop the next generation of skilled professionals,” Jones says. “We got involved through our landscape distribution division, and many of the participating companies, including Andrea’s company, are our customers. The industry needs to become less reliant on H-2B. And hiring local people and working with the community is part of our goal [at ALI].”
Although the program will target local high school graduates, it’s also an excellent opportunity for non-traditional students and veterans, Jones says.
“It’s an interesting way to help the landscape industry in Maryland, and getting high school students and possibly veterans interested in a career in horticulture and to better understand the opportunities that are available in our industry,” he says. “We’re hoping this program can be replicated with other community colleges – not just in Maryland, but other states, as well.”
Students must submit applications by May 1. And Grothe encourages more companies to join the program.