MANHATTAN, Kan.– More than 900 students from more than 60 colleges and universities came together at Kansas State University on March 22-25 for a weekend of competitive events with one ultimate goal: to learn to be the best possible caretakers of America’s green and outdoor spaces.
During the Professional Landcare Network’s (PLANET) Student Career Days, students tested their skills in events as diverse as small engine repair, plant identification, wood construction, and truck and trailer operation, and also met with potential employers from around the country.
“Top companies attend this event because these young men and women are the future of the green industry and the people who will be responsible for caring for America’s green spaces for generations to come,” said Roger Phelps, a PLANET board member and promotional communications manager for STIHL Inc. “These competitions provide students with real world experience and the skills they need to face problems they’ll encounter in the field every day.”
BYU-Idaho took top honors winning the overall team event and received $5,000 from STIHL Inc.
“PLANET Student Career Days is an annual capstone event for our BYU-Idaho students. The competitive events are structured so that applied university programs, like ours, do well,” said Reese Nelson, Ph. D., who works in the Horticulture Department at Brigham Young University-Idaho, the winning university in the overall competition. “Generous green industry companies both sponsor and judge the twenty-eight competitive events giving them an up close and personal look at future interns and employees.” Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo placed 2nd overall and BYU-Provo placed 3rd.
In addition to being the lead platinum sponsor of PLANET Student Career Days, STIHL Inc. also sponsored and managed the small engine repair and wood construction events, in which nearly 130 students competed. First place honors went to:
· Small engine repair: Joe Shear of Michigan State University outperformed 40 other competitors in both a written exam testing knowledge and a timed, hands-on practical repair session using an engine from a STIHL blower.
· Wood construction: Micah Wood and Jeff Monroe from BYU-Idaho were the top team of 40 participating. The competition involved a written exam and a timed practical event testing the team’s ability to read plans and construct a park bench. Teams were judged on the quality of construction, neatness and safety.
STIHL co-sponsored several other competitions, including annual & perennial identification, business management, landscape maintenance operation, landscape plant installation, paver/hardscape installation, plant problem diagnosis and woody plant identification.
In an effort to introduce the next generation to the green industry, STIHL Inc. sponsored two FFA teams to attend the event. The eight high school students from North Carolina and Kansas were the top finishing teams of the 2011 National FFA Nursery and Landscaping CDE competition, earning their place at the PLANET event. The students were able to meet representatives from the various colleges and universities, compete in four college-level events, and participate in the Career Fair. STIHL has been a sponsor of the National FFA for the past nine years and is the lead sponsor of this year’s FFA tribute to Hispanics in Agriculture.