Team Building: Strengthening Existing Relationships with Colleges and Universities - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Team Building: Strengthening Existing Relationships with Colleges and Universities

Do you already have connections with your local colleges but want to enhance those partnerships? Several faculty members in landscape-related programs share how they’d prefer landscape companies to work with them.

Like any other relationship, it’s best to really get to know faculty members before sending them all your summer job openings. If they don’t know your company, they aren’t going to feel comfortable encouraging students to apply there.

Phil Allen, Ph.D., professor of landscape management at Brigham Young University, based in Provo, Utah, says industry events like Leaders Forum or ELEVATE are an opportunity to connect with faculty members on a personal level and become friends.

Photo: Jim Funai

“Then we become their eyes and ears for the right student,” Allen says.

Make a point to help educators understand what makes your company unique. Allen says often a landscape company will focus on talking about the work they do rather than share the culture, training, and career opportunities they offer.

Jim Funai, Ph.D., plant science and landscape technology professor at Cuyahoga Community College, based in Highland Hills, Ohio, adds being consistent is critical.

“Don’t just pop over an email that ‘you have a great opportunity for students’ because everyone thinks they have that great opportunity,” Funai says. “Make it a point to visit a class every semester and offer some training fun.”

Todd West, Ph.D., professor of horticulture at North Dakota State University, based in Fargo, North Dakota, says being open to helping out when an educator asks is also significant. He says he’s been able to have one company demonstrate how to inject to treat emerald ash borer instead of showing a PowerPoint. At another time a company was able to provide additional harness sizes for his tree climbing and rigging class.

West and Funai also encourage getting involved with the National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC), whether that means feeding the team, coaching them, or giving them a T-shirt.

Advice for Others

Just like career fairs, it’s important to not have expectations of hiring students from your college partnerships.

“We can’t sell them to you nor force them into employment,” Funai says. “Hiring our students is all about your relationship with them and with the program. The companies that spend a lot of time with us are the ones that fare better in the hiring game. While donations are a crucial part of keeping the program running, there isn’t a direct return on investment in the number of students you get to hire.”

If your company participates in your local college’s career fair, West encourages communicating that to the landscape program’s faculty so they can let their students know. He says this can help landscape companies seize more opportunities.

“We just had a really successful National Collegiate Landscape Competition,” Allen says. “Companies met a lot of students from all across the country. My best advice is to follow up quickly. These kids in a text message era are not used to waiting for a day or a week or a month for you to tell them that you love them, and I mean that in a professional way. They need to be told you’ve got their resume. Shoot them a text message, ‘Hey, that was a great interview. I look forward to following up,’ so they know that you appreciated the time they spent with you.”

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.