Return-to-work green jobs program
Return to Work Green Jobs Program
TheDCH is proud to be the creator of one of Delaware’s first green jobs training programs, and to fill a sorely needed role in equipping Delaware’s ex-offenders to successfully re-integrate into the community.
The Return to Work Green Jobs Program hires and trains previously incarcerated men and women for entry level positions in the landscaping and horticulture industry. The 400-hour curriculum combines classroom training and hands-on work experience supervised by industry experts that together equip ex-offenders to secure meaningful employment upon successful completion. Graduates leave with marketable skills in a growing industry, valuable certifications, the satisfaction of improving the communities they come from, and essential employer references. The curriculum is endorsed by the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association as an Introductory Horticulture Training Program.
This innovative program has earned national recognition: The Arbor Day Foundation gave it the 2014 Award for Education Innovation, an honor that recognizes inventive programming that teaches its audience the importance of trees and inspires future environmental stewards.
TheDCH launched a Return to Work Green Jobs pilot program in 2009 with funding from the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (in lieu of penalty funds), the City of Wilmington, Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control, 3rd District Neighborhood Planning Council, and several state legislators, then continued through U.S. Forest Service American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. At that time, the training and work focused on planting bare root trees street trees along sidewalks in the city’s right of way, in parks, in front yards of private homes, and community sites. TheDCH is actively seeking additional funders to expand the Green Jobs program to include other populations that face employment challenges, like those who have been chronically under-employed and young adults recently emancipated from foster care.
Today, the Green Jobs Program spans all three of TheDCH’s program areas: Urban Forestry, Urban Agriculture and Public Landscapes. Funded through the generosity of the Laffey-McHugh Foundation, Burpee Foundation, and Community Reinvestment Act bank grants. The 10-12 week program runs twice a year (spring and fall) with two full-time employees and an alternate. The curriculum combines a half day of dedicated classroom time and 4.5 days of hands-on experience.
Classroom training includes a practical introduction to horticulture and arboriculture with topics like basic botany, terminology, taxonomy, nomenclature, planting techniques, native trees and plants. It includes life skills training like financial literacy, and job readiness training, including writing cover letters, job searching, resume writing, interview skills, and professionalism. The curriculum also includes valuable certification in First Aid/CPR and a Certified Tree Steward training course.
In the field, participants get hands-on experience planting bare root and container trees, basic tree care and pruning, public landscape installation and maintenance techniques, urban agriculture including raised bed building and community garden installation and care.
The fieldwork often takes the crews into their own neighborhoods, where there they model the positive personal impact of working and acquiring marketable skills, where they practice newfound skills and find satisfaction in beautifying underserved communities, and where they sometimes get to step into leadership roles, like the annual Arbor Day Celebration where they coach school-aged children about proper planting techniques.
As of January 2014, 39 men and women have successfully completed Green Jobs training (seven alternates also finished the classroom portion), and an encouraging two-thirds of the graduates went on to secure employment.
Beyond employment, the success of this program is evident in the impact on the graduates themselves. It is often palpable during the crews’ graduation celebration, where there are often ample expressions gratitude for the opportunities, newfound camaraderie with TheDCH staff, storytelling about memorable moments (like meeting Gov. Jack Markell’s wife, Carla Markell), and how good it feels to be part of the work.
The success of the program has come back to benefit TheDCH. For example, today, two of the program’s earliest graduates are an integral part of TheDCH staff as full-time, seasonal employees – one, in a leadership role overseeing new Green Jobs crew members.
TheDCH staff works closely with the Delaware Department of Correction to identify men and women who are highly motivated to re-integrate into the community and acquire new skills that will help them set a satisfying, productive life course. Additional key partners include the Delaware Department of Labor, Wilmington’s U.S. Probation office.
Trees planted by
TheDCH in Delaware:
TheDCH in Delaware: