The New York State Turfgrass Association is finalizing a statewide registered apprenticeship program for the turfgrass industry. The program will help NYSTA employer partners find and secure talent for specialized skilled positions in an industry starved for trained and educated professionals by creating a career pathway for job seekers throughout New York on golf courses, sports facilities, athletic fields, lawn/landscape and other turf-oriented businesses.
The program provides a template to help employers provide state-approved training for an existing employee or a newly recruited worker, said Dom Morales, the retired SUNY Delhi instructor who is helping organize the project for NYSTA.
The New York State Department of Labor is in the final stages of approving the template. Once approved, the program will offer 4,000 hours of structured, on-the-job training and additional instruction through a host of cooperating partners.
The concept has been in the works since 2018. Once approved, the program will offer training, education and certification for groundskeeper - golf course, groundskeeper - sports turf and turf equipment technician.
"Programs like this have been discussed before," Morales said. "This program is the first time something like this has been done on a statewide basis."
Tyler Bloom Consulting helped develop core competencies for the training program and will help market the concept to employers throughout New York. So far, six employers have signed on to either train an existing employee or use the apprenticeship to attract new help.
"I saw this as a way to make an impact in the turf industry and solve a problem," Bloom said.
"This is not just one faction of the turf industry. This is multiple factions coming together to solve a really big problem."
Once the program is up and running, it will do so on a one-year probationary period.
"There are a lot of checks and balances," Morales said.
"It is currently in the hands of the Department of Labor, and it should be approved by late May, or early June."
There is an increasing number of high school students across the state who at least express a passing interest in careers in agriculture and horticulture. As many as 140 high schools in New York have a Future Farmers of America chapter or some other type of agriculture education program.
Morales and Bloom are going to Syracuse May 12-14 for the state's FFA conference that is expected to attract more than 2,000 high school students interested in some sort of agricultural career.
"Ag-ed has exploded here," Morales said.
"The apprenticeship program also would be ideal for a veteran, or someone looking for a career change. This is where the rubber meets the road."
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