The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) brought together more than 1,100 students and eager-to-hire employers at the 42nd annual National Collegiate Landscape Competition March 14-17, 2018. The event is part of the association’s continued effort to grow the lawn and landscape profession’s workforce, as the industry aims to fill 300,000 positions in 2018 alone. Hosted at Alamance Community College in Graham, N.C., the three-day event featured the country’s largest landscape skills competition, educational workshops, presentations from the industry’s top professionals and a career fair.

Designed to cultivate, inspire and showcase the talents of the next generation of lawn and landscape professionals, the National Collegiate Landscape Competition provides the nation’s top students enrolled in interior and exterior horticulture programs at two- and four-year colleges and universities the opportunity to hone their skills and connect with professionals from the field. This year’s competition brought together over 750 students from approximately 60 schools, who competed to take home top honors in 30 team and individual competitions that range from plant foliage quizzes, 3-D exterior landscape designs, arboriculture techniques and plant problem diagnoses to skid-steer operation events.

“Participation in the National Collegiate Landscape Competition has grown dramatically since its inception 42 years ago, which demonstrates increased enthusiasm for the profession,” said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs, National Association of Landscape Professionals. “We are continually reminded of just how much industry professionals are in demand when hundreds of employers arrive each year eager to add skilled professionals to their rosters. Not only is this annual competition a great opportunity to support and connect with the next generation of lawn and landscape professionals, it also allows the industry to promote the many rewarding and lucrative careers within the profession and chip away at the thousands of open positions that must be filled.”

With the multibillion-dollar industry experiencing an extreme shortage of qualified workers, students experienced abundant networking opportunities throughout the three-day recruitment event as more than 100 industry employers were on site to tap into the best talent within several landscape disciplines, including construction, greenhouse/production, design, business development and management. In addition to a host of networking events, job opportunities for graduating students were available at the competition’s career fair on March 15, enabling students to shape their professional paths with the guidance of seasoned experts.

To further aid students studying to become lawn and landscape professionals, the National Association of Landscape Professionals Foundation presented scholarships to 75 students in attendance of the annual event, totaling more than $107,000.

“Being selected as the host for the industry’s National Collegiate Landscape Competition has always been a goal of ours since attending our first national competition event back in 2004,” said Justin Snyder, dean of industrial technologies and former department head for Alamance Community College’s horticulture technology program. “We couldn’t be more excited to host the 42nd annual competition at Alamance Community College.”

Major sponsors for the 2018 National Collegiate Landscape Competition include Stihl Inc.; John Deere; Caterpillar, Inc.; Native; Gravely; Level Green Landscaping; Kubota; Greenscape and Husqvarna.

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