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2024 NCLC spotlights the green industry’s bright future

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(Photo: LM Staff)
(Photo: LM Staff)

The National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC) returned to Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, bringing students from 50 universities together with industry representatives.

The result was a bevy of opportunities for the industry to grow, not only in numbers but with ideas from a diverse group of students.

“(NCLC) really gets you excited about what the future holds,” said Britt Wood, NALP CEO. “We have so many great young people here — we’re up nearly 100 kids — so it’s really exciting to see more and more new young people enthusiastic about our industry.”

Three years in

The 2022 NCLC at North Carolina State was Wood’s first as CEO of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) — after COVID-19 forced its cancellation in 2020 and a virtual competition in 2021. Now, with three events under his belt, Wood said he feels more ingrained in the green industry.

“I feel like I have a better sense of (the industry),” Wood told LM. “At NC State, I was bumping into things that I didn’t know. My goal this year was to have witnessed every single competition and get a good feel for it.”

The hosts with the most

BYU placed two teams in the top five, including the top spot. The university’s Provo-campus team won the event for the second time in three years, and students from the Idaho campus finished in fourth place.

“We’re thrilled to work with BYU (again),” Wood said. “BYU is obviously one of the leaders amongst universities for landscaping. They’re a great partner, that operates very much like clockwork.”

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), which won the 2023 competition, finished in second place. Wood said the Ohio-based community college winning the competition last year was a welcome surprise that brought some friendly competition to the 2024 event.

“I think one of the things that I appreciate about Tri-C is that there are so many great stories that come out of that institution,” Wood said. “It’s cool and it’s part of the fun (of NCLC). Tri-C is definitely a shining star in that regard.”

Future hosts, Colorado State (2025) and Michigan State (2026) rounded out the top five, finishing third and fifth respectively.

One-man band

Chuck Stangel, landscape and horticulture instruction at Fox Valley Technical College, brought home $1,500 for his program after winning the chant competition during the NCLC Opening Ceremony. (Photo: LM Staff)
Chuck Stangel, landscape and horticulture instructor at Fox Valley Technical College, brought home $1,500 for his program after winning the chant competition during the NCLC Opening Ceremony. (Photo: LM Staff)

At the NCLC’s opening ceremony, attendees from all 50 schools participated in the “Roll Call,” a chant competition that leads directly into the industry expo.

The winner was a first-time attendee, Chuck Stangel, landscape and horticulture instructor at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis. Stangel — a former landscape architect with more than 30 years of industry experience — led a chant spelling out “FVTC,” and drew massive support from the crowd. Stangel was the lone representative from Fox Valley in Provo but said his students will be in attendance next year.

“I just joined NALP recently and we didn’t have the time to get well organized,” Stangel said. “So I figured I’d come this year and learn about the event. We’re going to organize a group next year to come back with me. That’s the plan.”

Fox Valley Tech offers two-year technical diplomas and two associate degree programs with a landscape track and a greenhouse track. According to Stangel, Fox Valley’s horticulture and landscape program currently has 50 students and is growing.

“Our students are heavily involved on our 32-acre campus,” he said. “Our construction, turf and land care classes all do work to take care of the campus. We have great support from the university that lets us use the whole campus as our living laboratory.”

Staying out West

The NCLC will stay in the mountain time zone in 2025, heading to Colorado State University. After the stop in Fort Collins, Colo., Michigan State University will host the 2026 edition of the annual competition. According to Wood, NALP has several changes to the schedule and events planned for 2025.

“The scheduling is going to feel really different (in 2025),” Wood told LM. “Our goal is to ensure that this great population of students comes here and gets to interact with the industry. The hope is that every single student comes out of this feeling more passionate about a potential career in landscape, and hopefully having a job.”

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