One of the things that Buffalo could use a lot more of are, better landscapes. We have a dynamite park system, miles of waterfront, aspiring commercial corridors, but there is a lack of professionals that are adequately prepared to take care of it all.
Thankfully, the Buffalo Center for Arts & Technology (BCAT) is collaborating with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy (BOPC) and The Riverline to provide motivated people with access to a Landscape Maintenance Technician training program. The program – funded by KeyBank, the First Niagara Foundation, and a national foundation – offers tuition-free training in middle skills careers, thus providing a work-ready pipeline of candidates.
“BCAT’s partnership with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and The Riverline demonstrates a successful collaboration between three Buffalo-based nonprofits committed to our community’s economic and social growth,” said Gina Burkhardt, CEO, BCAT. “This unique program creates job opportunities that strengthen the local workforce and provide essential work-readiness skills to City of Buffalo residents. We appreciate KeyBank’s continued investment in our community.”
“KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation are proud to support this program and this unique collaboration between two dynamic, important organizations in our community,” said Elizabeth Gurney, Director of KeyBank Foundation and the First Niagara Foundation. “This program directly aligns with KeyBank’s commitment to education and workforce development that improves the lives of program participants. We applaud the efforts of Gina Burkhardt and Stephanie Crockatt who designed this creative collaboration. It is a great example of how we can build on the strengths of existing programs and work together to create opportunities for our community to gain productive and meaningful employment.”
With more public landscapes coming online all the time, including waterfront parks and The Riverline, not to mention the existing parks that always need round the clock landscape upkeep, Buffalo needs to step up its game when it comes to how it’s all cared for, and how it is presented to the public. The expectation is, that by providing these workforce candidates with the knowledge and tools that they need to get the job done, Buffalo as a whole will be a benefactor in years to come.
The program includes:
60 hours of educational instruction offered in the classrooms at BCAT
In-field training and a 4-week paid internship within the City of Buffalo’s historic Olmsted park system, with support from Conservancy staff
The in-house curriculum includes technical coursework on the park system history, horticulture, landscaping techniques, safety precautions, plus equipment and material uses
BCAT provides a minimum of 20 hours of instruction on work-readiness skills to ensure students are equipped to enter the workforce and be better prepared for promotions and/or upskilling opportunities
“We were given hands-on education with a lot of equipment that I probably never would have seen in my lifetime had it not been for this program,” said Darren Cotton, Class of 2021. “I’m thankful for those skill-building activities as well as meeting people who are involved in the stewardship and care of the Olmsted Park System and seeing how much people are passionate about these spaces and the importance of them to the city.”
Have you ever visited a city that shows off its landscaped public areas? Between lack of funding and lack of trained professionals, Buffalo could use some help when it comes to how it presents itself. We should be taking more pride in our outward appearance. This program, now in its second year, is a good start towards reaching loftier goals. We need to get back to the days of greatness, when Buffalo was considered ‘The City of Trees,’ and our parks were glorious – not just great, but glorious.
It would be nice to see even more partners (like McKinley High School’s horticulture program) joining this group in years to come, in order to take the initiative to another level entirely. This is an excellent starting point, however.
“The Conservancy hires over 55 supporting field staff each year to help care for and maintain Buffalo’s historic Olmsted-designed green spaces,” said Stephanie Crockatt, BOPC Executive Director. “With park usage escalating, the need for skilled labor is high. Together with BCAT, we are strengthening the local labor force, promoting diversity and inclusion, and fulfilling the Conservancy’s mission of preserving and maintaining our historic park system for current and future generations. We thank all partners and funders for this proactive opportunity.”
“The Riverline is thrilled to be part of this exciting project this year,” said Nancy Smith, Executive Director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, which administers The Riverline. “Thanks to support from a national funder, The Riverline is part of a five-city pilot project that includes similar infrastructure reuse projects across the country. Since the early days of planning for The Riverline, one of our stated goals was the equitable development of the surrounding communities. This workforce development program, in partnership with BCAT and the Olmsted Conservancy, will go a long way toward reaching this goal.”
More information and applications for the Landscape Management Technician training program are available and can be found here. BCAT will be accepting 15-20 applicants in classes running from January to April in 2022. This training timeline will ensure that program graduates are work-ready and able to support the park and general landscaping season from April through October each year.
For more information about the Landscape Maintenance Technician program, please visit buffaloartstechcenter.org/apply-now.
Lead image: MLK Greenhouse (circa 1907)