In forty-six years, the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association (NJLCA) has grown from five members to over 19,000 and has given a voice to the Garden State’s professional landscape contractors, who strive to make New Jersey a more beautiful place.
The NJLCA is dedicated to advancing the integrity, proficiency and continued growth of the landscape industry and offers its members a variety of services from planning and design to installation and maintenance, which are oriented to the needs of each client. The organization also has a discount program that offers members on discounts on custom clothing, nursery stock, equipment, machinery and financial services.
NJLCA members attend monthly membership meetings with networking and educational opportunities geared toward today’s market, alerts of legislative changes and affiliations with other organizations. NJLCA also publishes The New Jersey Landscape Contractor magazine three times a year that offers news briefs, informative articles and interviews with landscape professionals.
“There are so many benefits to being NJLCA member,” says Jody Shilan, MLA, NJLCAs’ executive director, and a Wyckoff-based landscape design consultant. “We are very pro-education here. One of the most important things we do here is we provide incredible amounts of classes for our members. Even our monthly membership meetings have an education component. At our most recent meeting, we had two state troopers and an attorney come and do presentations. The troopers discussed ways that our members could operate their equipment safely on the highways and the attorney reviewed contract documentation to ensure that you’re compliant to the rules and regulations of law to New Jersey.”
The New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association recently launched NJLCA University, a series of one- and two-day educational workshops and seminars. The university was conceived to provide more in-depth information for the company owner or employee, who wants to improve his/her business skills—an area where contractors can fall short.
Feedback from members spurred the introduction of these workshops because they wanted more interactive classes taught by industry professionals. Topics range from budgeting and estimating to social media, inbound marketing and sales presentations. Attendees will learn how to use Google SketchUp in one class, and earn the credits needed for their pesticide license in others.
Contractors can sign up for one workshop, or take them all. Classes are $149.95 for members and $249.50 for non-members. For additional information call (201) 703-3600 or go to www.njlca.org.
The NJLCA administers the Landscape Industry Certified Technician Program (formerly CLT). Certification is a national hands-on testing program exclusively administered in New Jersey by NJLCA in conjunction with the Professional Landscape Network (PLANET). Certification seeks to recognize proficiency in the landscape workforce, upgrade the status of the landscape professional and provide the public with a means of identifying qualified landscape professionals within the industry.
Anyone is eligible to take the exam, but it is strongly recommended that the applicant has at least one of the following: 4,000 hours of work in the landscape industry; 2,000 hours of work in the landscape industry plus the completion of an approved internship program. NJLCA wishes to stress that certification is not a substitute for a landscape contractor’s license. The goals, subject matter, and procedures of the certification test are different from licensing exams. Also, certification is not a substitute for any of the state-issued pesticide licenses.
To become a Landscape Industry Certified Technician an applicant must pass either: All Turf Maintenance Modules, All Ornamental Maintenance, All Softscape Installation or All Hardscape Installation Modules (applicants are allowed to take only one designation per exam). Successful completion of the Maintenance Modules demonstrates that a person has the skills to maintain a landscape project in a proficient manner. Successful completion of the Installation Modules demonstrates that an individual has the skills to take a landscape blueprint and proficiently implement the design in the field.
NJLCA believes that being certified promotes safety, professionalism in the industry and national recognition and standardization.
On the Legislative Front
The NJLCA is actively involved in lobbying numerous legislative issues. The group supports amendments to allow Green Industry Professionals to install low voltage landscape lighting.
NJLCA believes that low voltage landscape lighting installation is a highly profitable service that companies may easily add to their other landscape offerings but current New Jersey law (NJAC 45:5A- 18) restricts this work to electricians. Landscape lighting, however, is an artistic profession best suited to those who design landscape features and who understand aesthetics and growing properties of plant materials. The organization believes that unless the law is amended, New Jersey’s Green Industry professionals will be unfairly shut out from this fast growing and rewarding work.
“We are also actively involved in a program called the H-2B program,” says Shilan. “It’s a guest visa program that allows employees from other countries to work for nine months here and then return to their country. We are very instructive in terms of keeping that program alive. It allows us to keep the pricing competitive and it’s one of the government programs that work extremely well.”
NJLCA has also developed a strong relationship with the agriculture industry in New Jersey and are working alongside agriculture professionals on the state’s “Jersey Grown” program that is a spin-off of the “Jersey Fresh” program.
“I’ve been the executive director of NJLCA since September 2012,” says Shilan, “And it’s been on the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Christy Smith-Sloman is a staff writer for The New Jersey Cooperator and other publications.