Inside the Minds of Current Landscape Students—Your Future Employees

Sure, you know what you’re thinking about the job openings you need to fill at your landscape business and the work you need to get done regardless of if you fill them or not. But do you know what your future employees are thinking?

We asked current horticulture students who are attending NALP’s National Collegiate Landscape Competition–your future employees–about their career goals and why they think the industry has a hard time filling open positions.

Future Employees: Abby Denning, Michigan State University student studying horticulture with a focus on landscape design, construction and management and vice president of Michigan State’s Student Horticulture Association

What was your single favorite experience at NCLC in 2019? The Michigan State team went hiking in the mountains after we had taken our qualifying exams in the morning. It was a great time to relax and get to know people on our team better. There are so many different events in the competition. As a result, you gain a respect for your peers that compete in events that you would consider difficult.

Abby Denning

What are you most looking forward to at NCLC in 2020? I am looking forward to hosting this year. There is a lot of work that our professors and NALP put into this event. It has been interesting to play a minor part in planning the student reception. I also had the opportunity to meet other students in the industry at NALP’s LANDSCAPES show as a student ambassador. I am looking forward to seeing them again.

What do you wish landscape professionals would know about your career goals that you don’t think they are aware of today? Within my career goals, I would still like to advocate and promote the industry. Helping the public to understand the landscape industry is extremely important as our culture is slowly transitioning to be more environmentally conscious.

Why do you think landscape professionals have such a challenging time filling open positions at their businesses? What do you think they could change to improve this situation? I think that landscape professionals have a hard time filling positions because the labor force is changing as the education system pushes students into other career paths. Landscaping requires a unique skill set and appreciation for the work that we accomplish. Additionally, general misconceptions allow for this industry to get overlooked when there are many opportunities for successful careers. Continuing professionalism and having a willingness to change as a business are ways that businesses can improve this situation and attract employees.

What are your career goals? I am currently a junior, so I have one more summer to spend before entering the workforce. Last summer, I did an internship with Ruppert Landscape in Baltimore, Maryland. I learned an incredible amount in the area of commercial landscaping. This summer I’m looking to stay closer to home and diversify my experiences, potentially working in the areas of floral design, marketing, extension or farming. It is important to me that I explore the horticulture industry before I likely work for a landscaping company, which is where my passion began.

Future Employees: Matt Murphy, North Carolina State University student studying horticulture management/agriculture business planning and looking to graduate in 2022

What was your single favorite experience at NCLC in 2019? My favorite experiences at NCLC 2019 was meeting people from other schools, being able to drive equipment and cheer on NC State team members.

What are you most looking forward to at NCLC in 2020? I am looking forward to representing NC State and meeting more new people.

Matt Murphy

What do you wish landscape professionals would know about your career goals that you don’t think they are aware of today? I want to learn as much as I possibly can about the industry and be hands-on in the field while learning.

Why do you think landscape professionals have such a challenging time filling open positions at their businesses? What do you think they could change to improve this situation? Jobs are hard to fill because many people do not know the many different positions in the landscape industry. They are just not exposed to it in their lives. We can change this by doing more events to advertise the landscape industry and expose more people.

What are your career goals? My career goals are to be able to manage crews and expand my personal landscaping business. 

Future Employee: Mary Tuski, Michigan State University student pursuing a bachelor’s of science in horticulture with a horticulture science concentration and president of Michigan State’s Student Horticulture Association

What was your single favorite experience at NCLC in 2019? My favorite experience about NCLC in 2019 was competing in the irrigation assembly competition. It was a great opportunity to put my irrigation knowledge to the test while competing against other students. Even though we were all in competition with each other, everyone was friendly and encouraging. It was a very cool experience to interact with some impressive industry individuals who were monitoring our event. The adrenalin and desire to work to my best ability at something I enjoy made it a great experience.

future employees
Mary Tuski

What are you most looking forward to at NCLC in 2020? I am excited that Michigan State University is hosting NCLC this year! It has allowed me to see what it takes to put on this event. I’m also looking forward to sharing our campus with students from all over the country. East Lansing is a place I’ve called home for the past four years. I’m excited to share it with our industry and students.

I am also excited to participate in four events this year as well and represent MSU. I have the opportunity to participate in two events this year that I did not last year and I am excited to put my knowledge of these events to the test and compete with other students.

What do you wish landscape professionals would know about your career goals that you don’t think they are aware of today? What I wish for landscape professionals to know about my career goals is that I would like to integrate my marketing skills and experience into whatever position I obtain. Our industry is an amazing one, but we lack marketing ourselves as one. I would love to help promote our industry through whatever company I work for and help the public understand what we have to offer.

Why do you think landscape professionals have such a challenging time filling open positions at their businesses? What do you think they could change to improve this situation? As someone who is currently looking for jobs, one thing I have noticed is that many companies do not post their job positions available online. This makes it hard for individuals who are seeking jobs to find ones that are desirable to them. Job posting websites are great places to post open positions because that’s where a lot of people search for jobs. I believe making it easier for potential employees to find job positions will help fill them.

Also, it is becoming less and less known the career opportunities our industry provides. The younger generations are not aware of our industry and how there is so much to it and so much potential. Bringing awareness about our industry and how great it is might encourage more people to enter into it.

What are your career goals? I am graduating from Michigan State University in May 2020 with a bachelor’s of science degree in horticulture. My goal is to work for a nursery and grow trees and shrubs. I love the production side of our industry and have always had a passion for trees. I eventually want to move into the marketing side of the industry. Starting my career in our industry and growing in my knowledge and understanding of horticulture is very exciting to me.

Future Employees: Laurel York, North Carolina State University student studying agribusiness management with a minor in horticulture

What was your single favorite experience at NCLC in 2019? My single favorite experience at NCLC in 2019 was the opening ceremony. It got me excited for the competitive events. Also, the team cheers brought my team closer together while we also got to watch other school’s cheers to see our competition.

What are you most looking forward to at NCLC in 2020? I am most looking forward to competing in my competitive events again. I feel more prepared and excited to compete after competing in 2019.

Laurel York

What do you wish landscape professionals would know about your career goals that you don’t think they are aware of today? I wish the landscape professionals knew that I, as well as a lot of other students, are not only interested in the landscape industry for their career goals but we are also interested in companies that affect the landscape industry, such as chemical companies, distributors, etc. I enjoyed the career fair a lot last year and was able to make a lot of good connections benefitting my career goals. But I wish there was a larger variety of companies than just landscape companies in attendance, such as chemical companies like BASF, Bayer, etc.

Why do you think landscape professionals have such a challenging time filling open positions at their businesses? What do you think they could change to improve this situation? I think landscape professionals have such a challenging time filling open positions at their businesses because most of the open positions they are offering require high amounts of labor. Not many people with college degrees want to work in labor for the rest of their lives, which is a good portion of the jobs offered in the landscape industry. To improve this situation, they could search to fill these positions elsewhere, like high school or college-aged students looking for part-time work or people who have yet to get a college degree looking for good paying work. But most students who are graduating with a bachelor’s degree aren’t going to want to go into labor positions straight out of college.

What are your career goals? I want to go into a sales or management position within the landscape industry working for a large, well-known company. I previously worked for Scotts Miracle Gro as a retail merchandiser. After gaining experience there and through four years at NC State, I have decided I enjoy sales and would be qualified to work in management. I recently accepted a full-time position at Brightview in sales. NCLC is partly responsible for connecting me with the company. I am very excited to see where this position takes me after graduation in 2020.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking for your future employees? Find them at NCLC!

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