"I strongly believe that training should mainly take place at work, backed up by learning at a college or training provider, be that online or in a classroom. Few employers have the time to cover what, in education, we call the underpinning knowledge"
Every business claims that its people are the key to its success, and this is true. Without staff that are committed to the company's aims, no business can flourish. In the sports turf world, we are lucky to have many such people. I meet with turf managers regularly and I would say that 99% are seriously committed to the business they work for and the staff they manage.
This is a great asset to the industry, as many still deliver excellent training and guidance to the men and women entering the industry, who get the benefit of years of experience (which, if they don't appreciate now, will remember and value as their career progresses).
I am also struck by how many of the new generation of learners are also committed to their employers and really care about the work they do. Of course, there are those who do not, but I believe they are in the minority and often don't stick around for long.
I strongly believe that training should mainly take place at work, backed up by learning at a college or training provider, be that online or in a classroom. Few employers have the time to cover what, in education, we call the underpinning knowledge. However, for most employers, the main issue when it comes to training is the cost, and I hope to now give an overview of the present funding available for workers in the sports turf industry
How old, how qualified?
Funding is very much an age and qualification related subject. The main beneficiaries of Government money are the sixteen to eighteen years olds who are fully funded, i.e. training at a college or private training provider should be free of charge. The only problem with this (or benefit depending on your point of view) is they are only funded for apprenticeships, which are the Government's preferred method for work based training.
The second main issue is the qualifications that the employee holds. The Government is keen that all workers should hold a qualification at least at level 2.
The third issue is the size of the company, as this has a bearing on how much the government will fund. They are keen to fund small and medium size employers (SMEs), but not employers with more than 250 staff (some clubs are part of a chain and the government counts the chain not the club!).
In the main, there are two funding routes available to employers:
a) Employer responsive funding
This is very complicated and subject to change by the Government; at present it is as follows (note it will change for the year 2012/13).
The funding is best shown in the tables; note the changes to funding for the future.
A full level 2 is any five GCSEs at grade A to C or any NVQ level 2, BTEC first Diploma, intermediate GNVQ or RSA diploma. If learners already hold these, they are considered to have a full level 2.
You will note that for funding at level 3, much depends on whether the learner has a level 2 qualification. As most greenkeepers and groundsmen over twenty-five have done their level 2, they are not funded. The obvious message here is that any employer who has staff nearing twenty-five should consider getting that person onto a course before they reach the cut-off age (provided the person is ready for the level 3).
b) Apprenticeship funding
This is more straightforward. It is open to all, but the funding is mainly for sixteen to twenty-four year olds. Also, anyone with a degree will not be funded as an apprentice by the government. It is the only work based training option for sixteen to nineteen year olds, and is free for this age group.
The government expects that, for the over nineteens, the employer will make a contribution to the costs of the framework delivery.
Apprenticeships are available at two levels; the intermediate (based around the work based diploma level 2), and the advanced (based around the work based diploma level 3). There is not enough space to discuss the content of these, which changed substantially last September, but the frameworks can be downloaded at http://www.lantra.co.uk/Downloads/Standardsqualifications/Apprenticeships/Forms/Frameworks/Horticulture-apprenticeship-(April-2011).aspx
Why take on an apprentice?
The Government has introduced a new apprenticeship grant of £1,500 (which is payable in two instalments), for up to 40,000 eligible employers who commit to employ one or more sixteen to twenty-four year old apprentices for the first time.
To get this grant, the employer must not have had an apprentice in the last three years, and must commit to employing the apprentice until the end of their framework. This is only open to employers with less than 250 employees i.e. SMEs. Employers can easily check if they can get the grant by calling the National Apprenticeship Service on 08000 150 600.
Apprentices are excluded from the Government's minimum wage to try and get employers to take on more young staff. The current apprentice rate is £2.60 per hour for apprentices under nineteen, or nineteen or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship.
Rates from 1st October 2012 will rise to £2.65 for apprentices under nineteen, or nineteen or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship.
The Government hopes that the low wage bill, and the lure of a £1500 sweetener, will encourage more employers to consider taking on apprentices.
This remains to be seen. The problem for me is that some employers may see this as a way of reducing costs, and take on young people without thought as to their development.
Messages for the future
They are two overriding messages for the future:
1. Apprenticeships are king - the government is committed to apprenticeships and will move most of their funding to them. Employers will be expected to be involved more than ever before. This is already the case, as all apprenticeships have a requirement for on and off the job training. Off the job training could be at college, or at the workplace, but must be away from the main work duties, i.e. a Greenkeeper could study at work online in the main office.
2. As the government attempts to balance its books, other funding for work based qualifications will, without question, reduce or be removed altogether, so those considering training staff should not sit on their hands but get staff onto a programme now.
The following document gives an overview of the current and likely changes to government funding
Oaklands College is a GTC Approved Provider for Greenkeeper Education