May 15, 2023
Landscape trades well represented at 2023 Skills Ontario Competition
Monte McNaughton, Ontario Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (right) visits the Landscape Ontario booth at Skills Ontario.
By Cassandra Garrard
Landscape Ontario Apprenticeship Program Manager

The 2023 Skills Ontario competition was back in-person for the first time since 2019, and it was a huge success. Held May 1-2, 2023 at the Toronto Congress Centre, the showcase event included competitions for over 75 trades and saw over 20,000 visitors. The event is dedicated to promoting careers in the skilled trades and technologies as viable, first-choice career options for young people. Skills Ontario is our greatest opportunity for outreach and promotion of the horticulture and landscape industry to the next generation.

The landscape trades were well represented, having both high school and post-secondary competitions for Horticulture and Landscape (construction), and Landscape Design. The Skills Ontario competition is truly an inspiring event, and the talent and passion displayed by the competitors is incredible to see.

Horticulture & Landscape Competition

This year’s competitions were impressive. The one-day high school competition is fast paced for students just getting started in the industry. In teams of two, students use a landscape design to construct a miniature landscape with both hard and softscape components. The students gave it their all and blew the judges away with their skill, determination and eagerness to learn.

A special congratulations to the medallists:
Gold: Patrick Burston and Matthew Marchand (CS Viamonde)
Silver: Elliot Alkemade and Lucas Henson (Niagara Catholic DSB)
Bronze: Tyler Hahn and Braydon Larsen (Waterloo Region DSB)

completed projects by high school students
Completed projects by high school students (teams of two) for the Horticulture and Landscape competition.
The post-secondary Horticulture and Landscape competition includes a larger, more complex design, and the competition takes place over two days. Competitors showcased their skills and did it with passion. Judges were very impressed by the student’s abilities and work ethic. Thank you to the competitors who willingly stayed after hours to assist with tear down of the competition.

completed projects by high school students
Thomas Karl Kogel and Sydney Layne Bachmeier of St. Clair College with their completed project.
A special congratulations to the medallists:
Gold: Abigayle Hamilton and Emma Pace (Durham College)
Silver: Thomas Karl Kogel and Sydney Layne Bachmeier (St. Clair College)
Bronze: Matthew Alvarez and Luke Crilly (Humber College)

completed projects by students
Emma Pace and Abigayle Hamilton of Durham College competed and earned silver at Skills Canada after earning gold at Skills Ontario. Photo by Stuart Service.
The Horticulture and Landscape competitions were made possible because of dedicated industry volunteers. Thank you to Rob Tester of TNT Property Maintenance for yet another year as Tech Chair. Months of planning goes into making this competition a success and your passion is a driving force. Thank you to all of the Horticulture and Landscape competition judges and volunteers who dedicated several days for set up, the competition and tear down:

Rob Tester, TNT Property Maintenance (Tech Chair, Competition Volunteer)
Shane Jones, Durham College (Judge, Competition Volunteer)
Steve Neumann, Algonquin College (Judge, Competition Volunteer)
Eckhard Lutz, Waterloo Region DSB (Judge, Competition Volunteer)
Darren Murawski, Strathmore Landscape Contractors (Judge, Competition Volunteer)

group of volunteers
Horticulture and Landscape volunteers. Left to right: Rob Tester, Darren Murawski, Steve Neumann, Shane Jones, Tim Kearney (LO staff), and Eckhard Lutz.
Landscape Ontario would also like to thank the incredible businesses that supplied the competition with materials:
NVK Nurseries
Techo Bloc Inc
United Rentals
Best Rental
Cooper Equipment Rentals
FSI Landscape Supply
Rona Midland
Milwaukee Tools
King Canada

Landscape Design Competition

The high school and post-secondary Landscape Design competitions are both a one-day competition. Competitors receive a base plan, site photos and a list of requests from a client. They are able to complete their landscape design by hand or using DynaScape.

A special congratulations to the medallists:

High School
Gold: Reilynn Schutz (Waterloo Catholic DSB)
Silver: Lageera Chatheechan (DSB of Niagara)
Bronze: Noor Khalaf (Halton Catholic DSB)

Gold: Jonathan Medina Delgado (Humber College)
Silver: Mayte Vancini Berra (Humber College)

landscape design competition room
Thank you to Beth Edney of Designs by the Yard for taking on the role of Tech Chair this year. The Landscape Design competitions would not have been possible without you. Thank you for inspiring competitors to have fun and get creative with their designs. Thank you to all of the Landscape Design competition judges and volunteers:

Beth Edney, Designs by the Yard (Tech Chair, Competition Volunteer)
Emily Keown, Fivepoint Landscaping (Judge, Competition Volunteer)
Natalie Green, DynaScape (Judge, Competition Volunteer)

Getting to watch these competitions unfold is truly inspiring, the future of the landscape industry is in good hands. The Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation has provided over $6,000 in bursaries to medallists of both competitions to support them as they begin their careers.

Elementary Career Awareness Workshop

LO provided Elementary Career Awareness Workshops for grade seven and eight students throughout the first day of the competition. Students learned about the benefits of urban trees, why planting native tree species is important and received hands-on experience scarifying, soaking and planting a Kentucky coffee tree seed.

group of students listening to a talk
Tim Kearney explaining the benefits and importance of urban trees.
LO would like to thank Green Thumbs Growing Kids for their donation of Kentucky coffee tree seeds and activity inspiration. Students took their planted seeds back to their classrooms with instructions for care and eventual transplanting.

students working at a table
Students scarifying a Kentucky coffee tree seed.

Career Exploration Showcase Booth

group of people standing in a booth
LO’s Apprenticeship team ready to connect with attendees. Left to right: Lisa Pascoe, Nolan Bechtel, Cassandra Garrard, Sue Anunciacao, Tim Kearney.
Next to the Horticulture and Landscape competition, LO provided a Career Exploration Showcase booth to promote the horticulture and landscape trades. We were able to connect with students, parents, guidance counsellors, teachers and employment service providers to share opportunities and resources including,, and hort education opportunities across the province, the Horticulture Technician Apprenticeship and GROW programs and Landscape Ontario as a whole.

The goal of the Skills Ontario competition is to promote careers in the skilled trades and technologies as viable career options for young people, and it certainly accomplishes that goal. It is the largest opportunity for outreach and promotion of our industry to the next generation.

The passion from the competitors, teachers, instructors, tech chairs and volunteers is electric — something you need to see in person to understand.

If you are interested in supporting horticulture and landscape’s representation at Skills Ontario in 2024, please contact Cassandra Garrard at 1-800-265-5656 x2397 or