December is traditionally the month when thoughts turn to the long winter months ahead, the main competition season is over and the autumn maintenance programme is well under way.
Training and education is probably the last thing on peoples minds at the moment as budgets are becoming increasingly tighter and hardly a day goes by when we don't hear in the newspapers and on the TV that the current economic downturn has yet again claimed more losses on the jobs front.
But training and education budgets need to be maintained as these are investments for the long term, not only in the post holder but also in the long term viability and success of the organisation, whether that be the small bowling club with only a 100 members or so or the large multi site, multi surface organisations. Training is important and does not have to be a year long traditional college based course but can be taken in the more often preferred option of bite sized training CPD style courses that help to support individual development in specific areas.
The machinery and technology developments within our industry as a whole rapidly change every year with new gadgets and attachments designed to make our job easier and more efficient. But how often do we consider the training aspect for that piece of equipment or training and development of our colleagues
Therefore the emphasis is on training and updating skills rather than on full scale knowledge development education courses, and there is a difference.
Training courses are not just based around the cultural management and development of our playing surfaces. They have more of an emphasis on the development and updating of our colleagues and peers by adding new skills, currency and value to the organisation. They can cover a whole range of subjects from specific machinery training to management and supervision through to IT and added value skills that often we don't first think of when considering formal vocational based training.
Training courses are a prime example of a quick and efficient way of developing the skills base within our teams and have definite benefits that include:
• Practical, punchy courses, often tailor-made for exact business requirements.
• Strong emphasis on practical application rather than theory.
• Delivered as and when the organisation required and often over two to three days providing a quick return on the time investment.
• Strong networking opportunities with participants with similar professional interests.
• Smaller numbers encouraging a very interactive learning experience.
Develop competence: within a short time, the competence of staff in a particular area is boosted to a much higher level. This results in increased effectiveness of the team. The achieved long term cost savings in operation, can substantially exceed the expenditure of the course.
Stimulating new ideas: the varied discussions that take place on a course can trigger new ideas for better solutions or new concepts that can be brought into the organisation carrying out improved procedures and policies.
Motivate staff: a course on a new topic can be very motivating for staff that helps to develops a knowledge base in a particular topic area. It can strengthen the spirit of a team and generally stimulate interest in further learning.
There are three very definite areas that the sportsturf industry is split into and caters for the definite needs of that area, these are Cultural Management, Irrigation Management and Machinery Management. Each area can provide short course training opportunities and skills updating for all staff
Cultural Management is the one area that we fully appreciate when developing turf areas, whether it be a full Landbased qualification, such as a Vocational Qualification (VQ) through to a HNC/D and Degree. Often the range of subjects that we provide on these course give an insight into the range of short courses that are available to further the knowledge already gained. There are well known trade related organisations offering a range of supporting qualifications for specific surfaces such as Cricket Ground management, Aeration techniques.
This is often not thought of as an area within its own right, but how many golf courses, football arenas and sports complex also engage the use of a high tech' state of the art irrigation system or even just a few pop ups and a tank! What ever the range and type of the system, good irrigation management techniques start with an understanding of the system and the requirements of the surface on which it is being used. Gone are the days of 5 minutes a night every night will do! Courses offered by the BTLIA and City and Guilds/ NPTC help to provide knowledge for practitioners, from the novice to the contractor. An irrigation system is only as efficient as the person using it.
This is the one area that we are all engaged in at some time in our industry. The professional turf industry is becoming increasingly mechanised, with a tool for every job, aimed to make the life of the turf manager more efficient. The need for qualified machinery management with in a workforce has never been more recognised that what it is now. Look in any turf related trade magazine and you will now see career opportunities for Mechanic / Greenkeeper / Groundsman. To support this need there is a range of short course training available from both individual manufacturers and industry organisations. One such organisation is the British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Organisation (BAGMA) who identify, support and offer a whole host of training courses aimed at the turf industry. Whether it be level 2 mechanisation training up to specific industry area training. These are available through recognised training providers such as colleges and industry associations.
So they are the obvious ones, but let us just go back to the beginning for a minute and look at the statement I made earlier. "Training courses add currency and develop the skills base of staff". So how else can we look to develop our skills base? Well, as we move and develop our careers in the industry, our specific skills need will change and develop with each new role we take on. So a training course in the three areas already highlighted might be ok to help point our career in the right direction and aid our role at that time, but as we move into management, the tools and skills of the Sportsturf / Operations Manager change and so will their training requirements.
As we move into a more management and supervisory role, there is a need to focus on this area predominately and courses covering Leadership, Management and Human Resources are often more of a priority than cultural management
Training courses covering subjects such as presentation planning, report writing, CV writing and public speaking may become just as important as aeration management. Using a particular software package or even how to turn a PC on may be a need in your role. How about another language? French, Spanish or Chinese? You never know where you may be working this time next year and a short language course may be just what you need.
At the end of the day, only you, your team and your organisation know exactly what is needed and if you don't ask your team, you will never know. Carry out a skills audit with your team and ask the three basic questions.
- What skills do we already have?
- What skills do we need?
- Where can we get the right skills at the right time?
Find out if there are any other similar organisations within your area who need the same skills course. Quite often colleges and training provides will put on a bespoke course if they have sufficient numbers, therefore if three organisations require the same training, you will get the course you want, when you want it. The other added benefit here was highlighted again at the beginning of the article "Strong networking opportunities with participants with similar professional interests".
Everyone wins. The organisation, the team and you.
Article written by Wayne Roberts MAEd
A number of Pitchcare Training courses can be seen on the following link www.groundsmantraining.co.uk/