The Green Team
Turning green growth into green jobs!
Motivation and Identification of need
As Eastside Community Network expands its open space and green infrastructure work, the organization requires a crew to maintain its properties and has the specific maintenance knowledge necessary for taking care of green stormwater infrastructure. Previously ECN was contracting out its landscaping work. With an important GSI project nearing completion, the organization saw an opportunity to train eastsiders to take over its landscaping needs and gain skills in GSI maintenance. The formation of a “Green Team” creates the opportunity for eastside residents to gain meaningful employment and trains them in landscaping and green infrastructure, an expanding field in Detroit. The goal was to build up the skillset of eastside residents in an area expected to have an increasing demand, while providing the landscaping support ECN requires for its properties.
For the Green Team pilot season, the plan was to employ a crew of 3-5 individuals from May 2018 to the end of October 2018.
The initial Green Team pilot season was made possible with support from the Institute for Sustainable Communities. They allotted about $29,000 of a grant to hire a small crew of workers to receive training and perform the work necessary for ECN.
ECN has a program called the Partnership for Economic Independence (PEI), which focuses on offering social supports to address and eliminate barriers contributing to long-term poverty. Families and individuals (18+) connect with community resources and services that fit their needs and support them in moving towards financial independence. For the Green Team, members of the PEI program who were interested in the landscaping work were prioritized. Initially, two PEI members were hired on for the Green Team along with one other eastside resident who was not in PEI. Over the course of the work season, the team experienced turnover with two crew members leaving in the first few months. Two other PEI members were hired to replace those that left. Two crew members remained on the team for the whole season.
Only one of the members that was hired on had landscaping experience. Most of the work for the initial season required basic landscaping knowledge (mowing, trimming, and weeding) as no large GSI projects had been completed yet. ECN sought training programs for the crew, but none specifically met the needs of the organization. ECN also needed the crew actively maintaining their properties once spring had arrived. One member went through a training provided by the Green Door Initiative, which teaches general job skills along with construction knowledge.
Most of the training for the members occurred on the job. They gained basic knowledge of how to use the equipment and gained substantial experience doing regular maintenance on all of ECN’s properties throughout the season. Throughout the season, opportunities emerged for the crew to receive trainings in plantings and installing a rain garden. Overall, the team gained general landscaping experience over the course of the season and were able to learn a few things about GSI through their work.
The first season with the Green Team had its bumps along the way, but the overall experience was a success. The crew took care of the 10 sites that ECN is responsible for maintaining over the course of the whole season. Residents were happy to see some of the vacant areas this included being regularly mowed and trimmed. On several occasions, the Green Team lent a hand to residents and other community organizations to help out with their landscaping and maintenance needs.
ECN is currently planning for the next phase of the program to expand it into a more comprehensive workforce development venture. The training support will aim to be more inclusive of green stormwater infrastructure skills, both in maintaining and installing it. The vision is to create a skilled landscaping workforce with thorough knowledge of GSI that can take on City contracts for constructing and maintaining GSI installations in the future.
As the team learns and grows, we can also offer their services to other community organizations, businesses, and residents who require supporting maintaining green infrastructure projects. The eventual goal would be to have a thoroughly trained team that can install rain gardens, bioswales, and other green infrastructure work, along with generalized landscaping skills (mowing, planting, pruning, etc.). After the first season or two, ECN wants to advance into snow removal and winterization training to provide opportunity for year-round employment to the team.