MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- Nearly 900 students from 60 colleges and universities throughout the country are visiting Kansas State University and they're honing their skills in the green industry.
It’s all part of a three-day competition from March 22-25, 2012 called the National College Horticulture Games. The event is organized by the nation's lawn and landscape association, the Professional Landcare Network, also known as PLANET.
"It's our industry's premiere event. It's also been called the 'Landscaper Olympics.' They’re competing in a variety of skills that are involved in the green industry so everything from driving skid steers and operating backhoes to identifying plants and diseases, climbing trees and installation. It’s both practical and academic. It’s really all of those skills that you expect professional landscapers to exercise when they’re out there doing their work," said Roger Phelps with STIHL, Inc., the lead sponsor of the event.
"You can learn a lot from this in the same way you can learn from actually being in the field and operating the equipment. Along with the hands-on experience, we’re learning in the classroom through having to study for our safety exams and we’re learning a lot from the professionals that are here teaching us who sell the equipment themselves," added James Carter, a student from North Carolina State University.
The college students are also hoping to jump start their careers during the event. They'll participate in a career fair and networking events and will have the opportunity to meet with 150 representatives from the nation's top landscaping companies. Many students leave the event with job or internship offers.
"You want to know what the future of our country is like or the future of our green spaces- parks, yards, all of those other spaces that frankly, I think a lot of citizens take for granted- the future is really bright. You’ve got some very motivated, very conscientious students here," Roger Phelps told WIBW.
The event is in its 36th year and this is the first time it’s been held in Kansas.