New learning center offers top-tier training

April 23, 2019 -  By
Gachina Landscape Management team members watch a demonstration by Frank Niccoli at Foothill College’s John Paul and H. Jaclyn Ishimaru-Gachina Learning Center. Photo: Chad Sutton, Gachina Landscape Management

Gachina Landscape Management team members watch a demonstration by Frank Niccoli at Foothill College’s John Paul and H. Jaclyn Ishimaru-Gachina Learning Center. Photo: Chad Sutton, Gachina Landscape Management

With the current workforce shortage, hands-on experience is invaluable. But finding a good way to receive accurate and up-to-date training can be a challenge.

Recognizing the need for more qualified labor in the landscape industry, Frank Niccoli, a horticulture professor at Foothill College, a past president of the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) and a former landscape contractor, set out to create an interactive learning program at Foothill College in Los Altos, Calif.

Just last year, the National Association of Landscape Professionals decided to end the hands-on training portion of the Certified Landscape Technician (CLT) program. The CLT training was developed more than 30 years ago by a partnership with Niccoli, the late John Gachina, founder of Gachina Landscape Management, and CLCA.

The John Paul and H. Jaclyn Ishimaru-Gachina Learning Center at Foothill College is now in full swing. The center’s dedication on Feb. 21 recognized John and Jackie Gachina for their impact on the industry.

“I’ve known John for over 40 years, until he passed in 2015,” Niccoli said. “The Gachina family has been very supportive of the landscape industry … and it just made sense to name it after John and Jackie.”

Niccoli said with the help of student labor, it took 16 months to complete the center’s 25 hands-on training modules. The modules cover items such as irrigation troubleshooting, paver installation and how to drive a skid-steer.

“Since I was a contractor, I know what skills we’re looking for in the industry,” Niccoli said. “So, I built this program around those skills so that students coming out of Foothill College will have a better chance of getting a job with the companies in our area.”

In addition to benefitting students in the program, Jackie Gachina said the center will also give professionals already working in the industry additional training.

“With a shortage of a talented labor pool, this program will help fill that need,” Gachina said. “John would be so proud to see Foothill College leading the way in the education of the future leaders in the green industry.”

By the end of April, nearly 50 employees of Gachina Landscape Management will have completed the hands-on irrigation training at the learning center. Chad Sutton, water resource manager at Gachina, was part of the first class.

“If you like irrigation and you love seeing your team get better, then this is the best thing you could ever go to,” Sutton said.

Irrigation is the highest-grossing profit margin in the landscape industry next to lighting and concrete, according to Niccoli. The irrigation training consists of one day of theory with two days of hands-on training at the 11 stations, each with a controller donated by Hunter Industries.

The training center creates an open environment where people can feel comfortable trying something new or making a mistake. “There’s no other place I could teach people this kind of information, except for at one of our client’s job sites. (The clients) are paying us, and that’s not the best place because you are afraid to mess something up,” Sutton said.

“We’re lucky. It’s a beautiful facility,” Sutton added. “The bottom line is there’s going to be a lot of better irrigation professionals in the Bay Area because of it.”

Photo: Frank Niccoli

Photo: Frank Niccoli

Danielle Pesta

About the Author:

Danielle Pesta is the associate editor of Landscape Management. She started writing for the green industry in 2014 and has won multiple awards from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA). She can be reached at dpesta@northcoastmedia.net.

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