High school students given leg up on careers in landscaping

A student at Portage Lakes Career Center interacts with a customer at their annual spring sale. Photo: Portage Lakes Career CenterA student at Portage Lakes Career Center interacts with a customer at their annual spring sale.
Photo: Portage Lakes Career Center

How many students grow up wanting to be landscapers? Probably not that many, but thanks to programs like Portage Lakes Career Center (PLCC), this lack of interest is starting to change.

PLCC is a vocational school in Uniontown, Ohio, that offers a number of programs to high school students, including its Plant, Landscape and Turf Management Program.

The students spend the first year learning plant science, along with greenhouse and nursery production. The second year focuses on the hands-on side of landscaping. Students study landscape design and turf management while developing operating skills with machinery used on the jobsite.

Throughout the year, the students grow and tend to the flowers, herbs and vegetables they will sell at their annual spring plant sale. Students will also design and plant containers for any residents who bring a container to the sale.

According to the program’s teacher, Bridget Comes, 60 percent of the students’ final exam grade comes from the plant sale, as she is able to see how they interact with and serve customers.

After the first two years, Comes then hones the curriculum to meet each student’s interests. The job opportunities students choose to pursue vary from surveying to golf course superintendent to landscape architect to greenhouse manager.

As some of the jobs require further education, the program has partnered with Kent State University and Cuyahoga Community College, which allows students to gain college credits from completing the course.

About 50 to 60 percent of the students in the program go on to pursue a college degree related to the green industry, according to The Suburbanite.

For the landscaping industry, the search for young workers has – and continues to be – a challenge for most companies. Misperceptions about the industry – for example, that it is a field that requires little knowledge and lots of manual labor – prevents many students from seeing its value.

Comes has a background in the green industry and saw the need to share her knowledge and inform students about how many viable careers are available in the landscaping business.

“About 10 years ago, I hopped the fence into education because I really like that aspect of things,” she told the newspaper. “I love working with plants and I love helping people to learn.”

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