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Feature Stories November 23, 2012  RSS feed

Green Jobs Training Pgm. Pays Off For Graduates

LaGuardia Community College: 63 Percent Of Participants Found Work

Over 60 percent of the participants in the Green Jobs Training Program organized by the Queens Botanical Garden and LaGuardia Community College have graduated and found jobs, the college announced. Over 60 percent of the participants in the Green Jobs Training Program organized by the Queens Botanical Garden and LaGuardia Community College have graduated and found jobs, the college announced. Just over a year ago, Queens Botanical Garden and La- Guardia Community College launched a collaborative workforce development initiative, the Green Jobs Training Program.

Last Wednesday, Nov. 14, the college and the urban oasis trained 215 participants and, in a field where a 50 percent job placement rate is considered successful, fully 63 percent 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 in Flushing and LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City 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 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 and 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 and 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,” said Aisha Smith. When she realized that she could actually get training in the field, she saw her opportunity.

Soon after completing the green cleaning and housekeeping module in February, 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, Smith maintains customer accounts in the database, communicates information for pick-ups and dispatches drivers, among other things.

She added that 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 said. “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 explained.

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 La- Guardia 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, 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 noted.

Manuel Reynoso, a graduate from the Sustainable Landscape Design & Maintenance module, added that the program instructors “opened my eyes to a whole world that I didn’t know.”