Oct. 8 2019 12:00 AM

A childhood interest has grown into a focus on a career as a landscape contractor.

Jack Pohutsky, a Penn State senior who as a child created backyard designs at his family’s home, has won a scholarship at the 2019 National Collegiate Landscape Competition from the National Association of Landscape Professionals, Fairfax, Virginia, according to story published in PSU News. He hopes the scholarship will help him succeed in his chosen career, landscape contracting.

Steven Constable was the other winner from Penn State.

Pohutsky had applied to the school as a landscape architecture major but switched to landscape contracting after talking with his adviser at new-student orientation.

“I never even knew it was a major,” Pohutsky says in the story. “Part of the reason that I’m so heavily involved in recruiting is because I want people to know about landscape contracting.”

The scholarship winner was attracted to the rewarding, hands-on work of landscape contracting, according to the story, and took to the major immediately, learning in small, student-focused classes, which touched on subjects such as horticulture, biology and design software.

In a residential landscape design class, Pohutsky met with a local client, inventoried the person’s property and created a landscape design for his final project.

“The landscape contracting major prepares you to be a professional and to manage people right off the bat,” Pohutsky is quoted as saying.

He also credited the annual career fair hosted by the College of Agricultural Sciences with helping him to get a leg up in the working world.

“The companies there want you,” he is reported as saying. “You almost get to pick and choose your internships.”

Pohutsky has already completed three internships with two different landscaping companies. His first and second were spent at Ruppert Landscape in Baltimore and Laytonsville, Maryland. He worked in business development, project management and account management before going out into the field.

In his third internship, at R.P. Marzilli & Co., Medway, Massachusetts, Pohutsky managed and completed projects for high-end residential clients. He says his internship experiences gave him a greater appreciation for all facets of the industry and made him a more marketable job candidate.

In addition to his internships, Pohutsky participated in the National Collegiate Landscape Competition during his sophomore and junior years as part of Penn State’s Horticulture Club.

At the competition, a wide range of schools compete in events such as equipment operation, exterior landscape design, irrigation design, plant identification, sales and more. Pohutsky said in the story that Penn State always places very well in the competition, and emphasized the networking opportunities available at the competition, where top landscaping companies recruit talented students.

Pohutsky has become a staunch advocate for his major in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. He’s a member of the Ag Advocates, an elite group of undergraduate students who serve as ambassadors for the college, building positive relationships with students, alumni and industry professionals. He is the first landscape contracting major to join Ag Advocates in more than 20 years.

His responsibilities have ranged from giving tours to prospective students to speaking with freshmen at the Fall Welcome event. For the college’s annual spring Ag Day — which showcases the diversity of agriculture, from crops to animals to forestry and wildlife — Pohutsky used his skills to create a 2D and 3D rendering for the arrangement of 37 clubs and organizations at the event site.

Pohutsky has impressed his professors, among them Michael Mohney who teaches in the Department of Plant Sciences. He had Pohutsky in two classes and collaborated with him on an independent study.

He is quoted in the story as saying that he believes Pohutsky is an exceptional person. “Jack exemplifies what it means to be a Penn State student,” he said. “I look forward to watching him utilize his skills, knowledge and enthusiasm for the advancement of the landscape industry.”

Pohutsky’s passion for the field motivates his advocacy on its behalf. “It’s a very rewarding industry and it’s a growing industry,” he was quoted as saying. “You get to see a project go from nothing to something, you can make good money and you can live and work wherever you want.”

He listed the diverse opportunities available to skilled employees, saying that landscaping companies employ arborists, foremen, project managers, account managers, business developers and information technology specialists among others. He also emphasized the collaborative environment in and between landscaping companies, describing it as a “we” industry.

The NALP scholarship winner recently wrote an article for the Association, offering advice for landscaping students looking to bridge the gap between their collegiate and professional careers.

“If you fall into trouble due to a unique project, just call up your peer at ‘XYZ’ company, and they will help you through it,” he advised in that story.

In Pohutsky’s ideal world, landscape contracting would be “a destination major.” He credited the college with giving him all the aid and information that he could have asked for and described Penn State as “the best place I could imagine.”

He also expressed a desire to give back to his major after graduation. “I want to leave Penn State having made my mark on the department,” he said. “If they need help, they can ask me.”

After he graduates, Pohutsky hopes to establish himself through field work, and then explore a career in project management. He particularly wants to innovate in business development, making landscape contracting more efficient and environmentally friendly.

He plans to work in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. or in Spain and anticipates acting as a liaison between his company and the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Though his post-graduation plans are indefinite, he is unconcerned.

“The opportunities are boundless,” he says.