If you think back to your school days, how many of you knew that you wanted to work in turfcare? Not many I bet? I also imagine that those of you who realised that turf was for you, probably had more knowledge than whoever was tasked with careers advice at your school. And there lies the challenge of today, tomorrow and the future. How do we get youngsters to aspire to careers in turfcare?
Careers advice in schools has recently undergone a huge transformation, arguably for the worse, since the 2011 Education Act effectively broke up the established Connexions careers service and tasked schools with providing similar impartial advice themselves, but with no additional funding to do so.
As a college we attend careers events and parents evenings at more than 300 schools across the North West, in addition to trade-only events like Harrogate Week and Saltex. Our challenge in schools is not only to 'sell the College' but also to 'sell the industry' to prospective applicants.
Most teaching staff in schools have followed a route from school to sixth form, to university, to teach. By their own admission their knowledge of practical, vocational training is limited. Ideally, we need to get youngsters out of their classrooms at some stage, to visit local stadiums and experience the behind-the-scenes work that takes place before a football match, rugby match or cricket tournament - to provide a taster of what career opportunities exist in the sector. Mention Premier League football clubs or Premier Rugby grounds to them and their eyes light up. I'd welcome any thoughts, comments or suggestions from people who have organised such visits successfully.
Here at Myerscough we effectively offer three routes into the industry:
Full-time school leaver training
A range of one-year and two-year sportsturf programmes for youngsters leaving school who want the reassurance of a full-time college course. There's the choice of practical introductory programmes or more comprehensive academic Level 3 courses that offer A-Level equivalent BTEC qualifications for those students considering progression to higher level Sportsturf degrees. This route is also often popular with parents, where the security and familiarity of a College setting and established qualifications often provides that additional impetus to support their son or daughter into not necessarily following their friends to the nearest sixth form college.
A well-established programme of quality work-based training across the United Kingdom that delivers academic knowledge and practical skills within the apprentice's workplace. A network of regional work-based assessors supports each apprentice, through the latest online learning opportunities and the use of electronic portfolios and interactive learning resources.
The recent feedback from learners and employers has been outstanding and has provided the College with the reassurance that our apprenticeship delivery model continues to meet learner, employer and industry needs.
- 98% of employers are 'satisfied with the College's provision and would recommend apprenticeships to others'
- 99% of apprentices surveyed are 'happy with the training programme and would recommend it to others'
- 93% of employers stated that 'work based delivery had a positive impact on their overall business performance'
- Apprentice success rates 9% above the national average
The College introduced a free employer recruitment service towards the end of 2011 and this has grown from strength to strength. A dedicated Employer Services Team provides information, advice and guidance to sportsturf employers; advertising vacancies and supporting employers in recruiting apprentices. The high ratio of applicants to jobs indicates the demand from people trying to access apprenticeships which, in turn, breeds competition and better quality candidates for the employer to select from.
At the time of writing, a £1500 Employer Incentive Grant is available to sportsturf employers looking to develop their business and who recruit a new first-time apprentice aged between 16 and 24.
The College's Deputy Principal, Paul Morton, recently returned to his roots during National Apprenticeship Week. Paul spent time in front of the TV cameras at Burnley Football Club, with their Apprentice Groundsman Chris Pickles, in the build up to the live Sky game against Hull City at Turf Moor. Paul was once an apprentice himself and has been involved in the training and assessment of many top sportsturf professionals, including Paul Burgess, Head Groundsman at Real Madrid.
He commented: "I am delighted that Burnley FC has allowed me to come and work alongside Chris today. It's always great to meet some of the apprentices and it takes me back to my days as an apprentice at Knowsley Borough Council and my time as a Workbased Assessor at Myerscough, when training and assessing at workplaces across the country was my day to day job."
Local lad Chris was successful in securing the apprenticeship after a period of work experience with the grounds team under the expert direction of Burnley FC Head Groundsman Paul Bradshaw, himself a former Myerscough Apprentice.
Paul Bradshaw said: "Chris came to us on work experience from school and showed a real enthusiasm and passion for the job so, when an opportunity to take on an apprentice came up, we knew we had the ideal candidate in Chris."
"He is reliable, enthusiastic and not at all fazed by the surroundings. So many young people just come and want to meet players and get autographs. Chris, however, understands he has a job to do, knows what is expected of the grounds team and has proven to be a great addition to the team."
"I am delighted to be able to offer Chris the chance to complete his Sportsturf Apprenticeship with Myerscough. The training they offer is second to none, and Chris is the latest in a long list of successful apprentices from the College."
Higher Education Degree programmes
Our popular Foundation Degree in Sportsturf and Honours Degree in Sportsturf Science and Management continue to attract applicants from a range of backgrounds. The two-year and three-year full-time routes are ideal for students progressing from sixth form to a university-style setting, or for our successful further education students wanting to develop their knowledge and skills in an academic environment.
However, it is the part-time, on-line delivery that has seen a huge increase in student numbers in recent years. This option enables people already working in the sportsturf industry from a wide geographic area (including many from overseas) to gain a Higher Education qualification and enhance their knowledge and skills, without having to live in close proximity to the College. These courses continue to grow in popularity and will commence with a new cohort of students in September. All our on-line courses follow a similar structure and curriculum to the full-time courses, using our web based learning environment, Myerscough BLOOM.
Applications are now being accepted for this September's Foundation Degree Sportsturf course. Further information on course content, course fees and the application process can be found on the College website.
In the next issue of Pitchcare, Andrew Owen, the Course Tutor for our degree programmes, will be writing an article that focuses on his own sportsturf research projects and those being undertaken by students on the BSc (Hons) Sportsturf Science and Management programme.
Myerscough also offers a wide range of short training courses, focusing on legislative requirements within the industry. These include NPTC Pesticide Application - PA1, PA2a and PA6a, amenity tractor operation, abrasive wheels and grounds maintenance operator training (strimmer, brushcutter, pedestrian mowers and hedge cutters.)
The year ahead is an exciting one for Myerscough as we look forward to combining the challenge of recruiting new entrants to the industry, developing exciting new training opportunities and providing the high quality teaching and learning required and expected from industry.
For further information on any of Myerscough College's training opportunities please contact our Course Enquiries Team on 01995 642211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, tweet us @myerscoughcoll or follow Myerscough College on Facebook.
Current Burnley FC player Ben Mee said:
"It's fantastic that Burnley FC are prepared to give a young person like Chris this opportunity and I really hope this turns into a long and successful career within the game for him. Groundsmen are often forgotten at football clubs and the importance of their work should never be underestimated as the playing surface is paramount to the success of the team."
Ransomes Jacobsen partnership
Myerscough staff and students benefit from the latest sportsturf equipment technology as part of our exciting five-year partnership programme with Ransomes Jacobsen. The company also sponsors several student prizes and uses their staff expertise to provide training materials and support guest lectures, seminars and tutorials at the College.