More than 850 students attended the 40th annual National Collegiate Landscaping Competition (NCLC, formerly Student Career Days) hosted by the National Association of Landscape Professionals(NALP) in Starkville, MS. Students from 65 of the nation’s top horticulture and landscape collegiate programs went head-to-head in 28 individual and team competitions at Mississippi State University, the site of the inaugural 1977 competition.
“This competition brings together students from across the nation to recognize their skills, further their education and cultivate the growth of landscaping businesses,” said Roger Phelps, corporate communications manager for Stihl Inc.
Stihl Inc. has been the event’s lead Platinum sponsor for over 15 years, and sponsored individual competitive events like small engine repair and wood construction and the NCLC social challenge. Stihl also sponsored the South Alamance High School’s FFA team, winner of the 2015 National FFA Nursery and Landscape Career Development Event, to attend the collegiate competition.
At the end of the three-day event, Michigan State University was named the event’s overall champion and received $5,000 from Stihl.
In addition to showcasing their talents in hands-on competitive events, students attended a Career Fair where they interviewed with companies eager to meet and recruit the industry’s next professionals. Students spoke with industry leaders and learned more about their career path options. “These students are likely to go home with two to seven job offers. And not just for a job – a career,” added Phelps.
Each year, Stihl awards a scholarship at the NALP Foundation scholarship reception to a student who demonstrates outstanding leadership and industry potential. This year, David Hokanson of Brigham Young University-Idaho was awarded a $2,500 Platinum Ambassador Scholarship. Hokanson is studying horticulture with an emphasis in landscape design build and a minor in business; he plans to attend graduate school upon graduation. “I truly want to be a leader in the green industry,” said Hokanson. “I believe our industry needs strong leaders with a sound understanding of business if we want to continue to expand.” Since 1998, the Foundation has given more than $900,000 in scholarships and awards to 864 students.
Stihl sponsored the small engine repair competition, as well as the wood construction competition. Matthew Case of Alamance Community College took home first place in small engine repair, which tasked students to repair a Stihl BG 56 C-E handheld blower. As a bonus, after each unit was fully checked and in working order, it was packaged and sent to participating schools for their use. Jeffrey Lebaron and Daniel Stephenson from Brigham Young University-Provo earned top honors for their performance in the wood construction competition. This event requires a two-person team from each university to demonstrate proficiency in constructing a wooden structure as shown on plans and diagrams.