Landscape professionals and horticulture students greatly anticipate the largest landscape industry career fair and student contest, otherwise known as the National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC), hosted by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).
The event brings together more than 700 students from two- and four-year colleges to demonstrate their skills in real-world competitive events and to network with top companies in the industry.
For landscape professionals, future quality employees could be among those 700 attendees.
And, for students, “there is no greater opportunity to really get to know what it could be like working within the green industry,” says Jenn Myers, NALP’s director of workforce development. “It’s a way to immerse yourself in it. Students will not only gain real world experiences—even on things like traveling with the team and getting to know your classmates—but they’ll also have an opportunity to meet prominent industry members and potentially impact their future career. To put it simply, it’s an opportunity not to be missed.”
Want to know more about what NCLC is really like? One landscape professional and one landscape management student share their experiences attending the event.
Landscape Pro: Joshua Pool, chief operations officer, Timberline Landscaping
Tell us about your NCLC experience.
Though we’d heard of the event and were interested in it, last year was the first time Timberline Landscaping attended NCLC. This year we’re a major sponsor, which I’m really excited about. I didn’t attend when I was a student myself, but I’ve always thought it was a great opportunity—and I’ve now learned that it is.
Most importantly, I think it’s such a great opportunity for businesses to get out in front of college students who are eager to find jobs—and oftentimes are ones at the top of their class. Besides attending college career fairs, this is probably the best opportunity to meet students entering the industry.
What do you learn when attending NCLC?
I can say from just one year of attending NCLC, the event is exciting. It gives me hope that there are still leaders emerging in the industry every year and that any company would be thrilled to get one of them on board. This year, I hope to come away with a handful of good leads on students who are interested in full-time and internship opportunities. I also look to grow our brand exposure as a national leader within our industry as a company that is willing to support amazing opportunities for students to learn and grow.
Of course, I think I am most eager about the opportunity to meet students who are as excited about this industry as we are. We have a huge need for motivated and inspired young people who want to grow with a company who is consistently growing and expanding.
What advice would you give other landscape professionals who are attending NCLC?
For fellow contractors who are attending, prepare to be busy. I would suggest trying to attend as many competitions as you can and to definitely put yourself out there at the career fair. By attending the competitions, you can see who the star performers are if you are looking for new employees.
What advice would you give students who are attending NCLC?
For students who are attending, my advice is similar. Take full advantage of the opportunities that are available. Get out in front of companies that you are interested in. Don’t just walk up to them, grab the free stuff and leave. Talk to companies. Ask them if they’d be willing to do a telephone interview with you so that you can talk even more after the event. Come prepared and make sure that companies have a way to reach you afterwards.
Of course, you have to think about how you’re going to present yourself. Dress appropriately and position yourself as a professional. Take this event seriously and you’ll be taken seriously. Companies are looking for people who stand out as leaders.
How does NCLC benefit your business?
I think there are great opportunities for us. With this being our first year as a major sponsor, I feel this helps me professionally by broadening my approach to recruiting and helping within our industry. It will also allow me to learn from others who have been sponsoring this event for much longer—like High Grove, who sponsored for 16 years before us. They have learned a lot and have passed that knowledge on to us. In general, it’s just another great example of how this industry is full of people who really take the time to support one another.
Landscape Student: Alyssa Brown, senior, Brigham Young University
Tell us about your NCLC experience.
This will be my fourth year attending NCLC, since I went as a freshman—which is admittedly unusual. But I went because I wanted to immerse myself in the industry and make sure that I was definitely in the right program. I currently am a senior at Brigham Young University working toward earning a bachelor’s of science degree in landscape management. This year, I’m the team captain, which means I’m responsible for helping everyone prepare for their event.
What’s the key to a successful experience at NCLC?
Having been to NCLC three times previously, I’ve learned a lot. As a result, I think that the key to success while there is to get outside of your comfort zone. This is how you’re going to make the most out of it. I think a lot of students go and stay focused on their competition or maybe try to get a summer internship at the career fair and they limit themselves from all of the other opportunities. Experience as much as possible.
While you’re there, network as much as possible. Don’t just go and try to get a bunch of free t-shirts. Make it a true learning experience. I have met people who I may never go to work for, however I know they would be there to answer a question if I had one. That’s really invaluable to me.
What has most surprised you at NCLC?
One thing that has surprised me is that this industry is so open, consequently people want to help one another. I would guess that a lot of other industries aren’t like that. Also, since it’s a national event, there’s even less concern about direct competition. As a result, there’s an opportunity to ask questions and learn a lot. What you learn can help you make better decisions for your own career path.
I think that when you’re in school, you’re really only exposed to what is right there in your own community. But NCLC is an opportunity to see what else is out there—on a national level. It can really open up the vision for what your career opportunities could be. You might even learn that there are opportunities you didn’t know existed within this industry.
What has NCLC taught you?
For me, my goal has always been to learn more about myself and my career path. This event has allowed me to do that. In fact, by doing this work and being team captain and preparing for competition, I’ve learned that I love teaching. My long-term goal is to become a university professor. I’m certainly not opposed to going into the field first, but I love the idea of ultimately teaching others. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in NCLC and learn so much about myself and the industry as a result. There’s no question it’s had a major impact on me.