The future of training?
By Dave Saltman
Pitchcare spoke to David Golding, the Education Director of the Greenkeepers Training Committee (GTC), to gain an honest up to the minute overview of today's turf education and training options.
David is not only known by most Golf Greenkeepers but by many Groundsmen as well, who admire his continual drive to ensure golf employers as well as turf "students" invest in education and training to give themselves a measurable advantage in their quest for better playing surfaces.
David, before his now high profile position representing the turf sector at all levels of meetings relating to qualifications, trained as a Golf Course Manager, commencing as an apprentice.
In this revealing article he gives his personal view on just how objectives set back in 1989 when he joined BIGGA as Education Director, and continued after his move in 1993 to front the GTC, are all but in place for Golf.
David said, "I have seen many developments in the turf sector over recent years and we should be proud of the achievements made. As just one example - the presentation of the majority of the high profile stadia playing surfaces. I deliberately target the high profile venues, not to say that the other 99.9% of golf courses, football pitches etc around the country have not raised their standards, but I truly believe the televised venues set the 'standards' to which all employers and customers aspire.
At this point I would like to give credit to the trade for their on-going commitment to developing the equipment and products to ensure that the qualified Course Manager/Head Groundsmen have everything at their disposal to present the surface once the employers have approved the budget.
My simple message at employer seminars for years has been - if you want a better sports surface then two fundamental issues must be addressed."
David continued, " Finance and resources are crucial. However, the key to unlocking these necessary resources is the other fundamental issue - education.
So, let us take a look at the issue that I believe can have the most impact on our profession - the education, training and qualifications for Groundsmen /women and Greenkeepers.
I have heard of Groundsmen and Greenkeepers' frustration with their employers to the extent that it borders on anger and starts to eat at them. Their quality of life must be affected.
I have been there and I suppose I am now trying to give my experiences to those who treat their workplace as their own front garden.
First of all, I need to remind you that it is not. You do not own the football stadium, cricket square or golf course. Don't confuse it with having the passion to have your surface looking as good as the employers allow it to be. The skill is to use your professionalism to work with your employers to ensure everything you do and want to do is for their benefit not yours.
I know the frustrations of not having that state of the art machine or extra pair of hands, but very often the case for these kinds of resources has not been made on a professional basis.
The majority of to-days 'Headmen' have, like me, come up through the tools. We were not born, or trained, to be managers.
The one weakness in many headmen is their inability to 'see it from the employers viewpoint'.
So often I hear this from Course Managers at the top resort courses. These people are at the sharp end of a commercial business and in high profile meetings. They cannot be anything but professional, well prepared and aware of the "big picture" demanded by their employers.
As a Groundsman or Greenkeeper one will always be judged on the standard of the playing surface, and it is easy to detail the training courses available to obtain the knowledge and skills required to maintain turf. However, if you don't manage the site, somebody else has to and this can often lead to frustration and Groundsmen not receiving the resources necessary to meet the playing surface standard demanded by the employer.
So, given the profession has moved on apace since my days as an apprentice, which was three years working on a golf course and a four day course at the STRI, what is available today?
I am pleased to say that there is something for every level of Greenkeeper. Every formal qualification is complemented by short courses, often available through BIGGA.
Management training for example can be fun when presented by the likes of Frank Newberry. Even Health & Safety have sector specific experts like Jon Allbutt who know exactly just where to pitch their training.
Many of these courses are subsidised using trade support funds or the profits from trade shows, so please take advantage of these excellent courses.
As for the more formal qualifications, all the college-based courses now have to complement the occupational standards (N/SVQ's) and are available through several different modes of delivery i.e. full-time, distance learning or even on-line.
The types of college-based qualifications are National Certificate, National Diploma, Higher NC's, Foundation Degrees and M.Sc's. Please do not be put off by the words higher or degree, you will find there are some excellent college staff just waiting to advise you on which is the most appropriate course for you.
One of the most frustrating parts of my job is when I hear turf students critical of today's turf qualifications. Usually, following a discussion, it is obvious that they are on the wrong course or qualification.
This, I have to say, has now been addressed by the majority of Training Providers. The last thing they want is for the student not to complete the course.
For a number of years the GTC has pioneered the way in work based training and its funding bodies have invested in establishing a national structure of qualified trainers and assessors for centres such as the horticulture colleges.
Some ten years ago, we set out with a blank sheet of paper and a new set of qualifications called National/Scottish Vocational Qualifications (N/SVQ's).
These qualifications were supposed to be work based, yet it was left to the colleges to implement these new industry backed / employer led awards. This was unfair to everybody concerned, employers, colleges and above all the students.
Many people, in particular college lecturers, who were more than comfortable with the classroom-based pass/fail City & Guilds qualifications, soon condemned the awards. I have meetings with work-based qualification sceptics, but they will never change my mind regarding on the job skills training and what I believe is the very basis of what our great profession was built on.
We at the GTC decided to get involved with all aspects of these awards including:
· Attending Government approved meetings to agree all aspects of the qualifications structure affecting the turf sector.
· Establishing a turf-working group to agree the content of turf qualifications.
· Commence work to establish a structure of Approved Registration Centres & Training Providers throughout the U.K.
· Establishing a training programme to put Course Managers and Head Greenkeepers at the very heart of their own professional qualifications.
This programme became known as the assessor-training course.
· Training over 800 Course Managers as work-based assessors. Following a successful European Social Fund (ESF) bid worth £500,000 to the sector, not only is the assessor training programme continuing but it has been extended to train Course Managers as qualified trainers.
· Developing a new apprenticeship scheme in line with Government directives.
It has not been an easy road to travel and, back in 1993, some readers may remember a comment I made regarding a 'revolution is about to commence in Greenkeeper/Groundsmanship education and training.'
We are not by any stretch of the imagination at the end of the road nor have we won the revolution. However the number of Greenkeepers now achieving due recognition for their skills and knowledge through the N/SVQ's has surpassed all the GTC's expectations. This has benefited both the candidate and the employer.
In summary, today there is no excuse for Greenkeepers/Groundspersons not to get qualified and, with several of the more enlightened training providers having the on the job delivery option available, even the most 'reluctant to train' employers really have warmed to the N/SVQ's once they understand the structure.
All has been said and done, and it is now truly over to all of you."
The Greenkeepers Training Committee has worked continuously and is dedicated to its objectives of improving and promoting the education and training of all golf greenkeepers.
The GTC have recognised that golf greenkeepers play a vital role in golf course maintenance and management and equally recognise the importance of Groundsmen/women on the sports ground side of the industry. Training courses and qualifications are available to allow ambitious and enthusiastic Groundsmen/women and Greenkeepers to work towards becoming sports turf management professionals.
No doubt there will be many Groundsmen/women viewing David's opinions with 'why are we and our professional body not on board using this win-win structure?' The demands on today's Groundsmen/women are such that, without some level of education and training or, better still, qualification(s), the likelihood of enjoying life as a Groundsman is probably next to none.
If you would like some personal advice on your career, education, training and/or qualifications then please contact David Golding on telephone: +44 (0) 1347 838640 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org