How to train apprentices successfully in landscaping trades

29 Jan 2020

It is crucial for every landscaping company taking on an apprentice to remember that the young person is, above all, there to be trained. The training of a future landscape designer requires a follow-up and an accompaniment different from common law work contracts. Good training practices ensure mutually beneficial collaborations! The key points of these problems were raised at a dedicated conference at Paysalia 2019 led by Benoit Brissinger (Brissinger Entreprise - Unep) and Jean-Laurent Felizia (Mouvements Et Paysages - Unep), both accompanied by former landscaping apprentices.

What does a landscaping apprentice’s tutor have to do?

The company tutor is responsible for apprentice landscapers throughout their contracts. The tutor’s job function is to help young people acquire the skills needed to exert a landscaping trade – and evaluate their progress regularly. Tutors also participate in organizing the training jointly with training centers and so must be fully familiar with the requirements of the diploma for which the training is given and the “sandwich course” schedule.

Being a tutor is a key function, as a disagreement or a lack of understanding between the two parties is likely to lead to a breach of contract, although in France this risk is much lower in landscaping companies than in other sectors!

Integration of apprentice landscape designers into the company is crucial for successful training!

Without successful integration it is impossible to build a climate of trust. Both speakers shared their tips on how to do it. 

“On Day 1, I take my apprentices around and introduce them to each member of staff. I have a debriefing session every morning and ask for a “first impressions report” even if they are just making an exploratory visit! It is an invaluable audit for my company”, says Benoit Brissinger. It should be noted that this method also reinforces apprentices’ feeling of legitimacy as they often find difficulty in positioning themselves as they take their first steps into the working world.

Jean-Laurent Felizia believes that it takes a few days to integrate landscaping apprentices: “I throw them into the deep end on the first day but also organize a friendly welcome. I shift them from team to team so that they can see what the job entails. When they join the company we give apprentices a “Welcome” guide co-authored by everyone on the staff.”

Landscaping companies should also pick the right dates for recruitment. If possible in your country start apprenticeship contracts before the beginning of term so that apprentices get eased into the working world without having to worry about training center timetables.

Last but not least, it is essential to explain your corporate values and check that apprentices understand and apply them. This is just as important as teaching them in-house rules and regulations!

Communication: the foundations of a fruitful collaboration

If the two sides involved in a corporate apprenticeship contract do not know what is happening – and going to happen – the experience can go wrong! This is why it is important to promote dialogues which must include the parents, Jean-Laurent Felizia says. “We often see young people accompanied by their parents who can help them to put words on what they need to express”.

It is essential to have regular meetings with landscaping apprentices. “My company nominates a contact for our apprentices and trainees. They meet every Friday morning to review what the apprentices learned during the previous week. And I regularly debrief the parents and the young people – and not only when things are not going well. I make a point of highlighting what has gone right!” Benoit Brissinger explains.

Jean-Louis Felizia also recommends encouraging apprentices to tell us what they want during these meetings. “Each week, we plan the days to come in free, open, discussions. We also ask them to give us their visions of gardens, even if they are only with us for a few weeks!” Communication must be two-way. Companies can learn a lot from their apprentices. The young are experts in digital media and can even train their companies and help them find new clients!

Every landscaping apprentice is unique and must be treated accordingly

In times gone by, company personnel did what they were told to do. Things have changed, particularly for young generations! The singularity and psychology of each person must be considered in an individual way to ensure close collaboration – particularly as tutors are working to ensure the full personal and professional development of their apprentices. It would be counterproductive to apply the same training module to each apprentice landscape designer. Each apprenticeship must have a personalized frame of reference!

For Benoit Brissinger, it is also important to consider the young people not as children, but as developing adults. “We want to make each apprentice autonomous. And we must never forget they need affection. Sometimes, parents are absent and the landscaping company becomes a parental figure. That can be a true lifebelt for young people in difficulty”.

The “work is fun” concept is an extremely important factor in development. This implies taking the time to discover each individual’s expectations and desires

Apprentice landscape designers seldom join a company for the pay. They see an opportunity to develop their creativity and meeting and working with new people… This is why I organize a discovery phase during their first month which I use to identify their preferences so as to optimize their missions. I do not look at their performance scores. What’s interesting is what they want to be and do!

Justine T., formerly apprentice to Jean-Louis Felizia highlights a problem often encountered in landscaping companies: hierarchy. “Apprentices and employees should have equal rights!”. To enable apprentices to totally identify with companies, they must feel free to explore and expand… the only way to make the most of their training in landscaping trades!

Keep in close touch with the training centers

Landscaping companies tend to train their apprentices to meet their own needs. But never forget that apprenticeship contracts are a tripartite relationship! The training centers are responsible for teaching the theoretical side of landscaping trades. They count on the companies to ensure that landscaping apprentices achieve their training goals and obtain their diplomas.

Jean-Laurent Felizia says it is vital to keep in contact with the training centers to eliminate the risks of discrepancies between what companies transmit and course contents to ensure that the training is homogeneous!

As Benoit Brissinger emphasizes, “plants bloom in good compost.” It is up to the companies to be good compost so that young plants can bloom in landscaping trades… and improve sector attractiveness!


© Photo credit: auremar / stock.adobe.com

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