Landscape Olympics come to Utah
Park City was an Olympic venue, and on Thursday it hosted college students participating in what has been informally dubbed as the landscape Olympics.
The annual event, hosted by the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) and sponsored by STIHL, is being held at BYU through March 22 to 26. Over 60 schools converged on the campus to network and interview with over 119 landscape companies during the PLANET Student Career Days. Students also competed in several different events including plant identification, constructing benches in an allotted amount of time and building a patio within a certain number of square feet.
Part of the week included a trip to the Utah Olympic Park where students engaged in a service project shoveling snow and maintaining trails. Over forty schools participated. Students had an opportunity to try out the zip line and tour historic main street while they were in town.
"They’re going to see what a ski town looks like," said Jeremy Baker, Operations Manager of ValleyCrest Tree Care Services in San Jose, California.
Baker graduated from BYU in 2000 and helped organize the event. He said the trip to Utah Olympic Park was a fun event that provided a break during a very intense week. The three goals for having them there were for students to be safe, have fun, and provide a service.
BYU has been planning the event for quite some time.
"We were invited to host the event and we’ve been planning it for four years," said Phil Allen, a Professor in the Landscape Management Program at BYU.
He said landscaping is a $72 billion dollar a year industry and has become a sophisticated profession that requires trained professionals.
BYU encourages anyone pursuing a B.S. in Landscape Management to also get a minor in business.
Owner of Park City’s 10th Mountain Landscape & Design Inc., Tony Brucia concurs that higher education is important in the profession, especially in Park City where he says the clientele is used to working with higher end landscapers.
Parkites often request that landscapers create outdoor living spaces such as outdoor kitchens or ask for their yard to reflect the wilderness they see around them.
"These are top of the line companies, they’re looking to recruit educated people," Brucia said of the other landscape companies participating.
He added the industry is growing rapidly. Each year he adds one or two new employees as demand for his services increase.
General Manager of the 10th Mountain Landscape & Design Inc., Dave Alderman, said he hopes participation in the PLANET Student Career Days will help fill their current vacancies for a landscape maintenance supervisor, and irrigation supervisor and a position in flower production.
People involved in landscaping have found it to be a rewarding work environment.
"You can sense the joy," said Alderman of happy clients.
He added that he loves going to work every day.
"It’s a holistic kind of environment. You’re dealing with living, breathing, growing things," Alderman said.
Allen agrees that it’s a great field to be in.
"People who work in landscaping are happy people. They are helping to make the world a beautiful place to live."
Toni Muren, a student at Joliet Junior College in Illinois, finds a deep satisfaction in the work.
"The sun comes up and I’m outside, the sun goes down and I’m still outside," she said.
She has attended the PLANET Student Career Days in past years and is trying to earn a degree in landscaping, floral design and green house management. She plans to compete in the interior plant identification contest and says while she loves the work, coming to compete in the landscape Olympics is often a great place to make friends.
"A lot of times I come here for the camaraderie," she said.
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