Columbus, Ohio — Where will the future workers, managers, and owners of nursery and landscape businesses come from? Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association doesn’t intend to leave that up to chance.
On Nov. 2 and 3, 2017, ONLA will welcome 200 students for its second annual Ohio High School Landscape Olympics, a hands-on competition at The Ohio State University Agriculture Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio.
Educators and students from 20 schools and career centers across the state will travel to this year’s event. In addition, the program has already 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, and perhaps persuade, their future workforce.
“We were immediately on board,” says Gail Reinhart, human resources manager at Hidden Creek Landscaping in Hilliard, Ohio. “The Olympics gives us the opportunity to engage directly with students and provide insight on the many career choices that exist not only within our company but throughout the green industry. It’s a true grassroots effort to recruit the next generation.”
Reinhart’s company will lead the sales presentation competition at the event. Additional 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.
To deliver an engaging experience for teenagers, ONLA has infused some fun into an otherwise serious competition. A kick-off party with pizza and inflatable games will build excitement and camaraderie. As an alternative to a career fair, a “speed networking” event will encourage exploration of the many career choices available in the industry. And a new Fun Zone will provide activities for students who aren’t competing. “The Olympics allows my students to compete in, and spectate, a wide variety of real world, green industry challenges,” says Roy Dria, an instructor from Jackson High School in Massillon, Ohio. “Not only do competing students get a great sense of pride showing off their skill. The event sparks the interest of future students and inspires them to work harder.”
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.
Dria brought 34 students to the 2016 Olympics, one of whom was a senior with his mind set on attending the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy upon graduation. Dria noted that his former student is now enrolled in horticulture classes at OSU ATI, all because of the interactions, and encouragement, he received during the competition.
“All of my students really enjoyed the event, but it made an obvious long-term, life altering change for one,” he says.
For more information about the Ohio High School Landscape Olympics, visit www.onla.org/ohlo.