Garden Helps Prepare Job Seekers for Green Horticulture Jobs

Training people in the elements of eco-friendly landscaping practices with help from a grant.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, in partnership with state, county and city agencies, is conducting a hands-on vocational training program called Water Efficient Landscaping to prepare California parolees and job seekers for sustainable landscaping and horticulture careers.

The eight-week vocational training is supported by a grant from San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency (SBETA) and many participants are referred through their involvement with California New Start prison-to-employment program, a statewide comprehensive employment network for inmates and parolees.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is assisting the program with classroom and hands-on training to train participants for careers in the urban agriculture and green horticulture industries.

“By partnering with state, county and city programs to provide a water-efficient landscape vocational training program,” says Patrick Larkin, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden executive director, “we’re providing a knowledgeable workforce to help meet the demand for increasingly sustainable landscapes.”

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG) is partnering with California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) Water Resources Institute, Inland Empire Women’s Business Center to offer the Water Efficient Landscape, Entrepreneurial Skills and Soft Skills Program to train workers reentering the workforce in ecologically sensitive horticulture industry and help reduce California recidivism rate. Numerous statistical studies demonstrate that holding a job is one of the best predictors of parole success.

The 12 participants completing the vocational training program will earn a Water Efficient Landscaping certificate of completion from SBETA. The certificate is important in a demanding job market and the combination of instruction and hands-on experience enables participants to establish the knowledge and technical skills to help build a stable career.

Classroom and hands-on sessions at RSABG include basic horticulture, landscape design, irrigation basics, plant installation and plant health and diseases—all based around the focus on California native flora and sustainable horticulture practices.

The final week of the RSABG training (Oct. 3-7) culminated with the installation of beautiful, drought-tolerant California native plant landscape in traffic median in front of Claremont Lincoln University (at the campus of Claremont School of Theology).

The program curriculum also includes a week at the Inland Empire Women’s Business Center at CSUSB, where trainees will learn essential business skills, such as incorporating a business, drafting a business plan, creating a marketing plan and managing business financials. Cal State San Bernardino instructors will also teach a segment on interpersonal and technology skills at the Yasuda Center at CSUSB.

This isn’t the only program RSABG manages to help train workers reentering the workforce in ecologically sensitive horticulture industry. RSABG trains veterans on the propagation, care and maintenance of California native plants at Grow Native Nursery Westwood at the Veterans’ Garden. The 12-acre nursery was established in 1989 as part of the VA’s Horticulture Therapy Program, a work therapy program to assist veterans making the transition back to civilian employment. Grow Native Nursery Westwood sells California native plants to the public.