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Horticulture Apprenticeship Program

The Project Hire-Ed Horticulture Apprenticeship Program uses the earn and learn model. Apprentices work with an area employer, working full-time and earning full-time wages. Apprentices are able to knowledge they have learned in their horticulture courses, while also learning skills on-the-job.

There are several possible apprenticeship scenarios:

  1. Employer pays for full-time wages and benefits year-round, rotating between departments. The employer pays for tuition, books & fees for courses in apprenticeship track.
  2. Employer pays for full-time wages and benefits during peak season (typically March to October) each summer.  Employer pays for tuition, books and fees for courses in apprenticeship track. The apprentice returns to the employer for peak seasonal work during the duration of the apprenticeship program.
  3. Employer pays for full-time wages and benefits during peak season and offers winter work on an as needed basis. Employer pays for tuition, books & fees for courses in apprenticeship track. The apprentice returns to the employer for peak seasonal work during the duration of the apprenticeship program.

Apply to the Apprenticeship Program

Apprentices are hired by employers to work full-time while taking coursework at College of DuPage, which directly correlates with their work with the employer. Employer pays for costs of tuition, books and fees and the apprentice works for the employer during the two years of the program and two years post completion of the training.

If you are interested in applying, complete the interest form and send your resume to Hiring starts as early as March. Watch your email for further directions from the Project Hire-Ed team. They will communicate with you directly about next steps.

Apprenticeship Interest Form

Project Hire-Ed is your point of contact through the pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship experience. You will hear from Project Hire-Ed staff to ensure you are getting the skills and tools you need to succeed. Watch a video to learn more or contact Project Hire-Ed at (630) 942-2953.

Hire an Apprentice

Employers across the country struggle to find workers with the right skills due to the growing skills gap in the workforce. Hire an apprentice from College of DuPage. 

Apprenticeship Tracks

The Horticulture track provides students with fundamental knowledge and skills in horticulture. Courses included in this track include Introduction to Horticulture, Soils and Fertilizers, Applied Plant Taxonomy, Horticulture Business, Plant Propagation and an Internship. Students will earn a Horticulture Certificate upon completion.

A horticulturalist can work in any number of environments containing plants. Their responsibilities involve various tasks, from sales, cultivating, planting, harvesting, feeding, and pruning plants, to treating plants that might be infested with pests or infected with a disease. Horticultural workers perform various gardening duties in settings like nurseries, parks and botanical gardens. They work under the direction of a supervisor and may advance to a supervisory position after several years of on-the-job experience. Horticulture workers may obtain an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree for the purpose of advancing their careers.

The Landscape Design track provides students with the knowledge and skills used by landscape design professionals. Courses in this track include Landscape Construction, Landscape Design, Landscape Plants I, Landscape Estimating and Bidding, Horticulture Business, Landscape Graphics, Computer Aided Design for Landscaping and Landscape Plants II. Students will earn a Greenhouse Management Certificate upon completion.

With increasing regularity, people are choosing to enjoy outdoor spaces where they live, work, and play. Landscape designers and architects help bring these outdoor spaces to life for families, businesses, and municipalities. They are creative visionaries who have the right expertise – and eye – to know where to place flowers, shrubs, trees, pools, patios, sidewalks, and more to create the best form and function for an outdoor space. Some designers and architects work within a professional landscape firm or at a garden center while others work for themselves or for a municipality. If you are creative and have an eye for detail, are committed to sustainability practices and the environment, enjoy working with people and love plants, landscape design or architecture might be an ideal career option to consider.

The Landscape Maintenance and Construction track provides a broad range of instruction for students wanting to work in the Landscape Maintenance and/or Construction. Courses in this track include Landscape Construction, Irrigation and Water Management, 4-Cycle Small Engine Repair and Maintenance, Arboriculture or Landscape Plants I, Landscape Estimating and Bidding, Horticulture Business, 2-Cycle Small Engine Repair and Maintenance, Turf Science and Management, and Landscape Maintenance.

A lush, healthy lawn adds beauty to a community, value to a home or business, and benefits to the environment; but healthy lawns don't just happen. They require knowledge, care, and attention. They are best brought to life and nurtured by lawn care technicians. These knowledgeable stewards of the environment mow, plant, water, fertilize, aerate, weed, and more to help lawns flourish in residential and corporate settings. Becoming a lawn care technician is an excellent career choice for those who enjoy working independently outdoors in varying weather conditions, like establishing the pace of their work, seeing the results of their efforts, and embrace the opportunity to interface with customers. A hardscape installer builds concrete, stone, and clay segmental pavements and retaining walls to complement the landscape on residential and commercial properties. These career professionals install patios, walkways, steps, driveways, plazas, parking lots, and roads that add beauty and value. Starting this career requires physical fitness and a strong work ethic. A hardscape installer career is for those who love to create outdoor environments, receive satisfaction from building a project from start to finish, and enjoy working outdoors in varying weather conditions. Commitment to this career path can lead to owning and operating a hardscape business.

The Greenhouse Management track provides students with core competencies required to effectively manage a greenhouse. Course work in this track include Introduction to Horticulture, Soils and Fertilizers, Horticulture Business, Greenhouse Operations and Procedures, Plant Propagation, Greenhouse Crop Production, Bedding Plant Production and an Internship.

Professionals who work in nurseries and greenhouses grow the millions of flowers, shrubs, and trees used by landscape companies, garden centers, homeowners and others each year. In addition to planting, nursery professionals prune, fertilize and control the weeds that may be detrimental to the health of the plants they are cultivating. Those drawn to jobs in the nursery and landscaping industry are generally interested in the biology and beauty of plants and want to make the world a more attractive place, one flower or shrub at a time. In addition to a love of plants, this profession also requires a passion for working with people as landscape nursery and greenhouse professionals are regularly asked for advice, guidance and problem-solving help.

The Power Equipment and Technology track is designed to provide students with the basic knowledge, required skills and hands on experiences to maintain and repair outdoor power equipment such as lawnmowers, chainsaws, rotary tillers, portable power generators, compact diesel engines, small garden tractors, outboard motors, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, as well as the use of technical manuals. Courses in this track include Power Equipment Electrical Systems, 4-Cycle Small Engine Repair and Maintenance, 2-Cycle Small Engine Repair and Maintenance, Portable Power Generator Repair and Maintenance, Compact Diesel Engines, Power Equipment Drivelines, Hydraulics, and Hydrostatics, and an Internship. Students will earn a Power Equipment and Technology Certificate upon completion. Students can also receive industry certifications upon completion.

Outdoor Power Equipment Mechanics diagnose, adjust, repair, or overhaul small engines used to power lawn mowers, chain saws, recreational sporting equipment and related equipment. They also perform routine maintenance on engine systems such as lubricating parts and replacing spark plugs.

The Sustainable Urban Agriculture track offers a hands-on approach to becoming a professional in the field of urban farming and sustainable urban agriculture. Students receive practical, hands-on experience working in urban agriculture. Courses in this track include Soils and Fertilizers, Introduction to Sustainable Urban Agriculture, Sustainable Urban Vegetable and Herb Production, Hydroponics/Aquaponic Production Systems, Business Principles of Sustainable Urban Agriculture, Urban Agriculture Issues, Local Foods, and Principles of Agroecology.

Jobs in Sustainable Urban Agriculture are focused on growing, processing, and distribution of food and other products through intensive plant cultivation and animal husbandry in and around cities. Growing food and non-food crops in and near cities contributes to healthy communities by engaging residents tin work and recreation that improves individual and public well-being. Urban agriculture integrates multiple functions in densely populated areas offering an alternative land use. In addition to food production, urban agriculture also offers a wide range of other functions such as energy conservation, waste management, biodiversity, nutrient cycling, microclimate control, urban greening, economic revitalization, community socialization, human health, preservation of cultural heritage and education.

The Arboriculture Track offers knowledge and skills needed to work in arboriculture, lays the foundation for lifelong learning in plant identification, selection and care, tree management, insect and disease identification and pruning techniques. Courses in this track include Introduction to Horticulture, Soils and Fertilizers, Landscape Plants I, Arboriculture, Diseases of Ornamental Plants, Landscape Plants II, Insects of Ornamental Plants, Applied Plant Taxonomy and Landscape Maintenance.

An arborist cares for trees and other woody plants. These career professionals are called upon for advice on selecting and planting trees and to evaluate the condition of trees, make recommendations for their care and provide services needed such as pruning, fertilization, insect and disease control and when necessary, removal of damaged or diseased trees. Above all, an arborist is a highly qualified specialist who recognizes his or her responsibility to maintain the considerable value trees can add to life and property. This career requires physical fitness and comfort with heights. A career as an arborist is an excellent opportunity for those who love to work independently outdoors, like to use their mind to prevent and solve problems and are comfortable with physical exertion in varying weather conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to your frequently asked questions regarding the Horticulture Apprenticeship program.

This summer we will launch the pre-apprenticeship program with employment opportunities beginning as early as March. Employers will be reaching out to schedule interviews as soon as resumes are distributed.

Because the interviews will start quickly, this is why it is important to start working on developing or updating your resume now.

A pre-apprenticeship is a period of time when a student works for an employer prior to starting a formal apprenticeship to determine if mutually it is a good fit.

Students who are accepted into the full apprenticeship program in the fall will not only benefit from earning a full time salary but also receive:

  • employment benefits
  • progressive wage increases throughout your apprenticeship
  • tuition and fees paid for by the employer
  • may earn a nationally recognized certificate

A pre-apprenticeship can lead to an apprenticeship with an employer who is interested in investing in an employee long term. The employer covers the cost of tuition, books and fees of agreed upon courses in the apprenticeship program.

Currently we have pre-apprentice opportunities in the following tracks: Horticulture, Landscape Design, Landscape Maintenance/Construction and Greenhouse Management. We will update students if we obtain opportunities in the other horticulture tracks.

The hours of the pre-apprenticeship will depend on the position and the employer needs. Typical shifts tend to run 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • For the pre-apprenticeship, current COD students must have a C average (2.0 GPA) or
  • For the full apprenticeship program that will start in the fall, there are reading and writing placement tests.

The apprenticeship program begins with the summer pre-apprenticeship experience. If you would like to participate but do not complete a pre-apprenticeship this summer, we encourage you to participate next summer.

As a student completes their pre-apprenticeship, there will be a formal review period with the employer. The student and employer will then decide if it is a mutual fit and, if both parties align in their decision to move forward, the student would receive an offer for the formal apprenticeship opportunity. The process for full apprentice selection will begin in July.