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Veteran cultivates interest in landscaping

Shawn Phillips, Landscape Designer

Shawn Phillips’ zeal for learning new landscape skills just keeps growing.

“I really want to learn more about how to be a professional landscaper,” said Phillips, who recently became the first student to complete Rogue Community College’s reinstated Landscape Technology program.

Now Phillips is pressing toward his educational and career goals, taking biology, writing and algebra classes at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford.

“There’s a lot more to landscaping than just digging holes and planting trees,” he noted. He’s also aiming to complete the bachelor’s degree he began at the University of Cincinnati.

The 46-year-old has worked as an air traffic controller and commercial truck driver and served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He first came to the Rogue Valley a couple of years ago for a stay at the Department of Veteran Affairs’ Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics.

“It was an excellent experience,” he said. “The center takes great care of vets. They helped me to turn things around and deal with some major issues I didn’t even know I had that had interfered with my life.”

While at the center, Phillips completed RCC’s Turf Management training, an experience he enjoyed so much that he moved right into the Landscape Technology program.

“One thing has led to another at RCC,” he said. “It’s been a great place, and the instructors are first rate. This is the perfect place for someone who’s been out of school for a while to get their brain going again.”

Stand-out classes were arboriculture, taught by Rachel Winters, “the most knowledgeable person about plants I’ve ever encountered,” Phillips said, and irrigation classes taught by Mike Minder, who pushed Phillips to the limits of his intellectual ability. “He sets the bar high,” Phillips said.

The Landscape Technology program prepares students for entry-level positions and possible promotion in related industries such as golf course management, and landscape design and maintenance, according to John Osbourn, training services coordinator.

It also provides ongoing opportunities for current workers to update their training and for RCC to expand and explore opportunities for sustainable or “green” technology career training.

Completion of the certificate program, plus one year of work experience, qualifies students to take the general landscape contractor’s license

Long-range regional job prospects appear promising. According to state Employment Department figures for southern Oregon, the average hourly wage for landscape contractors is $12.97 or about $26,970 annually.

More information about the program is available at 541-245-7847.