Alameda home to state's first landscape apprenticeship

Alameda home to state's first landscape apprenticeship

Jess Anderson

From left to right: Alameda Point Collaborative Director of Social Enterprise Andrea Schorr; Division of Apprenticeship Standards Director Diane Ravnik; San Leandro Adult School principal Bradley Frazier; landscape apprentices Deja Roofener and Lance Martin; landscaping and horticulture technology trainer Deborah Lindsay; landscape apprentice Daryl McCray. Contributed photo.

The Alameda Point Collaborative, a non-profit organization founded in 1999, has labored for over a decade to make it possible for a supportive community for the homeless to thrive on Alameda’s former Naval base. Since its inception, it has grown to become the largest provider of low-income housing, academic tutoring and job training for formerly homeless people throughout the entire East Bay.

This past November, the Collaborative announced a new job skills training in the form of a first-in-the-state Landscape Apprenticeship Program that saw the nonprofit join forces with the California Department of Industrial Relations and the San Leandro Adult School.

“Our program at APC provides another way in which we can offer our residents a way to find meaningful employment that supports their long-term stability,” said Lisa Dyas, the Collaborative’s director of fund development and community relations.

The program and others like it provide job skills to people who might otherwise be at a disadvantage in the job market, said Diane Ravnik, director of the Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Apprenticeship Standards.

The Collaborative launched this new state certified landscape apprenticeship program in September 2012 with three APC resident trainees. In addition to providing a home for 500 formerly homeless people, the Collaborative’s 34 acres at Alameda Point offer a training ground where participants in the apprenticeship program can be engaged.

The program’s inaugural trainees took over care of the Collaborative’s grounds in October, and are expected to offer landscaping services to outside customers “in the near future,” the Collaborative’s website says.

Led by a full-time expert instructor and guided by the Collaborative’s Ploughshares Nursery team, the program includes 288 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training over a two-year period. The part-time apprenticeships are salaried.

The Collaborative specializes in supplying job opportunities and supportive training constructs through their environmentally sustainable social enterprise businesses and other on-the-job training programs. They offer residents the opportunity to gain job skills while also learning about health, nutrition and horticulture.

In addition to the new landscape apprenticeship program, the Collaborative offers a basic on the job training program with part-time administrative, customer service and transportation positions on-site and farm2market, a working farm that trains up to a dozen residents at a time in food production and produce sales. Its social enterprise programs include Ploughshares Nursery and a fully equipped commercial kitchen.

Hands-on education workshops are held at Ploughshares throughout the year covering topics on sustainable landscaping, fruit tree care, edible gardening and composting. Residents learn from the workshops and then move on to farm production tasks, which generate revenue that supports the Collaborative’s efforts.

The Collaborative will begin constructing a 2,500-square-foot retail space that will be utilized by Ploughshares Nursery early this year. The building will incorporate ecological design principles like solar electricity and grey water recycling.

“This is a significant day for us here at the Collaborative,” said Andrea Schorr, its director of social enterprise. “This apprenticeship program will allow more of our residents to have opportunities for work that they may not have otherwise.”