National Collegiate Landscape Competition celebrates 40 years

March 8, 2016 -  By

A planting competition during this year’s event.

Industry recruiting event, the National Collegiate Landscape Competition, celebrates a milestone.

When students partake in the career fair and competitive events at the National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC) this month, they’ll be the fortieth group to
convene in the name of landscaping education and camaraderie. And they’ll be right back where it all started: Mississippi State University.

A program of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), the NCLC—formerly known as Student Career Days and ALCA Field Days—was founded in 1977 by Bob Callaway of Mississippi State, Roy Mecklenburg of Michigan State and Ron Smith of Ohio State. That year, these landscape/horticulture instructors brought a group of students together from five schools to learn from and compete with each other—and the tradition has continued for more than four decades, visiting 25 different schools, hosting more than 15,000 students and doling out nearly $1 million in scholarships to nearly 900 students.

Brett Lemcke, vice president of R.M. Landscape and NALP president-elect has participated in the event both as a student at SUNY Cobleskill and a chairman for three years. He signed up as a college freshman because he’d heard it was a fun way to get involved in his college program—and in the industry.

“This event can get student participants a grander perspective of our industry,” he says. “The idea that the potential is endless within the industry is a very motivating thought.”

This year, 800-plus students from more than 60 schools will participate in a 27-event competition that includes construction equipment operation, plant identification, landscape design and business-related challenges. Schools accrue points in an effort to win the coveted first-place trophy—the Robert A. Callaway Award—and students compete individually to top the list of “superstars.”


Winners of the best team cheer award.

In addition to fun and friendly competition, a career fair exposes students to dozens of landscape companies that exhibit to recruit students for internships and job opportunities.

Justin Snyder participated as a student with North Carolina State University from 1999-2002, and he’s involved today as a faculty adviser for the team from Graham, N.C.-based Alamance Community College.

“This event truly does become a life-altering part in many of our students’ education paths, career paths and, ultimately, their lives,” he says. For example, he walked into his first career fair with no plans or expectations but interviewed with Ohio-based Yardmaster and Walt Disney World. He received internship offers from both.

“It was amazing to me that a first-year student could walk into the career fair and ultimately walk out with two internship offers,” he says, adding he spent the following summer in Ohio at Yardmaster.

“It showed me the power of this event from a job placement standpoint.”

Photos: National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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