WOOSTER — Where will the future workers, managers, and owners of nursery and landscape businesses come from? Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association (ONLA) doesn’t intend to leave that up to chance.
On Nov. 1 and 2, ONLA will welcome more than 200 students, including 13 from Upper Valley Career Center, for its third annual Ohio High School Landscape Olympics, a hands-on competition at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster.
The Olympics intersects the high school educational experience at a critical point — when junior and seniors are starting to think more seriously about what they’ll do after graduation. Educators and students from 20 schools and career centers across the state will travel to this year’s event.
At the event, competitions test and build students’ skills in plant identification, compact excavator and skid steer operation, plant and hardscape installation, landscape maintenance, irrigation, truck and trailer maneuverability, and cost estimating. Two new competitions in low-voltage lighting and turfgrass have been added to the 2018 event. Awards will be presented for “Top Student in the State” and “Top Team in the State.”
“After last year’s event, one attendee decided to change his entire career path to focus on horticulture from an initial notion to work in public safety. He had the opportunity to make valuable industry connections to give him a head start with job connections, too,” said ONLA’s Marketing and Communications Manager Alana Settle.
To deliver an engaging experience for teenagers, ONLA has infused some fun into an otherwise serious competition. A kick-off party will build excitement and comradery. A networking event with sponsoring companies will encourage exploration of the many career choices available in the industry. And a Fun Zone will provide activities and learning opportunities for students who are not competing.
In addition, the program has garnered interest from more than a dozen green industry companies and associations, who have signed on as sponsors to support the event, lead competitions, and get the chance to meet their future workforce.