NCLC career fair highlights recruitment programs

Landscapers looking for employees outline the opportunities available to students.

PROVO, Utah – Companies at the National Collegiate Landscape Competition career fair want to promote the opportunity to work outside on job sites and focus on the management side of the business in an office.

“You can do back office stuff and get your hands dirty,” said Willis Watkins talent acquisition manager at Landscape Workshop in Birmingham, Alabama.

The career fair is part of NCLC, an annual skills competition and showcase organized by the National Association of Landscape Professionals, and being held this year at Brigham Young University's Provo campus.

Watkins said the company has an internship program that sets up participants with mentors throughout the summer program. The internship allows them to work on job sites and learn about back office systems.  

“They aren’t on the truck every day,” Watkins said. “You have to learn what goes on in the back office.”
Jason Nielsen, CEO of One Grounds Management in Caldwell, Idaho, also offers an internships, but the company has an accelerator program, as well.

The program is a two-year, full-time work program for graduates of a two- or four-year school. Spaces are limited in the program, and consists of eight-month rotations through three key areas – operations and skills, sales and business, and technology and information. Once an employee finishes the program, he or she can stay at the company, leave and start his or her own company, or go work for another company outside of the area. 

Nielsen says even if someone does want to leave and work for another company, One Grounds Management likes to build relationships with other companies, and that new employee could be a bridge. One Grounds Management also uses subcontractors, and having a past program graduate could lead to a possible relationship.

“We can’t be so shortsighted to think everyone will work for us forever,” he said. “We are into partnerships and expanding relationships.”

The company’s internship program allows students to work 30 hours per semester for credit, and like the accelerator program, showcases all aspects of the job, including the use of technology. The company developed an internal app that is used by crews to track job progress and other performance indicators.  

“We want to paint the picture that it’s not just pushing a shovel and laying sod,” he said. “In our niche, there is a lot of opportunity for students to grow and gain experience.”

Casey Hare graduated from BYU-Provo last year, and participated in the NCLC competition. Hare had job offers eight months before graduating, but took a position as a garden manager at LifeScape in Denver after visiting the company’s booth at last year’s NCLC job fair. He said he knew students with degrees in other industries who didn’t have jobs after graduation. But, with the labor shortage in the landscape industry he said students can find a job, and possibly a career.

“If you are on top of things, you can have opportunities lined up,” he says. “There is room to grow and not be stagnant.”

Other notes from the NCLC:

  • Outgoing NALP board president Brett Lemcke of R.M. Landscape in Buffalo, New York, couldn’t make it to the event because of a snow storm, so incoming president Jon Cundiff of Weedman had to give the opening remarks. “If there are any hiccups, blame Brett,” Cundiff said with a laugh.
  • NALP named Mark Maslow, founder and president of Southern Landscape Group in Evington, Virginia, the Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Maslow started the company in 2006 with co-owner David Moon and now brings in approximately $5 million in revenue. As he looked into the crowd he said he could remember sitting in the audience 13 years ago at the event as a student at Virginia Tech University thinking he was ready to conquer the world. “I didn’t know what that quite meant at the time,” he said. He urged the students to work hard because, “Success is not an app you can download. It’s something that you work really hard for,” he says.
  • Maslow also had three tips for the students: listen first, talk last; ask for help. “I learned when I started asking for help, it shortens your learning curve,” he said; and hustle like nobody else.

For more coverage of NCLC, check out our story on NALP's new career website.

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