With Covid-19 still affecting us all in terms of how we can conduct our lives both at home and at work, I have had plenty of time to reflect on things that are important to us.
Regarding work, as editor of TurfPro I do have concerns for our industry on several fronts which I would like to share with you.
In short these are centred around three core values I believe will shape the future of our industry:
- Education & Training with regard to continued employment of grounds industry professionals
- Future of our industry trade shows
- Combating climate change and improving environmental sustainability
Education & training
Starting with education and training, I firmly believe we need to have a more joined up educational programme that provides the necessary skills and experiences to help develop and train future turf and horticulture professionals.
I believe we have a very fragmented delivery of courses and often diluted education programmes, that don’t always meet the needs of our industry employers.
I consider myself lucky, I had the opportunity to undertake a five-year City & Guilds training programme, that at the time was recognised and valued by the industry and offered the relevant basic skills and experience to work in horticulture and sports turf.
Having said that, validating a wide and varied provision of education programmes is not my area of expertise. I am sure there are plenty of good education programmes that have led to good careers for many who are currently working in our industry.
We may need to focus more on promoting the life opportunities that this industry can offer. Again, we have various organisations, colleges, training providers and businesses trying to entice the next generation to come and work in our industry.
I still hear of many businesses finding it hard to recruit new blood. We hear the same old story. They do not see it as a glamorous job, having to work long hours and weekends. Also crucially, we do not pay a decent wage. It is said a man in a van gets paid more than a qualified gardener or groundsman.
For as many years I can remember, both the GMA and BIGGA have promoted what they believe are the correct rates for the given career job responsibilities
The GMA recommended national basic salary bands for 2019 are:
- Grounds manager - £34,782-£55,431
- Head groundsperson - £30,517-£41,885
- Deputy head groundsperson / sole charge - £24,967-£31865
- Groundsperson (skilled) - £23,348-£29,785
- Groundsperson - £18,706-£23,863
- Junior groundsperson - £15,905 (Age 17)
- Junior groundsperson - £13,208 (Age 16).
These bands reflect minimum recommended basic salary payment and are based on a 37.5-hour week. Bonuses, overtime and subsistence payments have not been included and are therefore additional.
The greenkeeping salary rates are similar.
However, many are only earning anything between £18,000- £25,000. Not a great wage to encourage future generations of career turf and horticulture professionals.
Having said that, those who manage to dedicate themselves, acquiring the skills, drive and ambition, usually find themselves getting paid well and end up working in some of the finest venues and locations in the world. Therefore, we must focus on these successes and where able, promote the diversity and benefits of working in this unique industry.
This leads me on to the next point - The future of our trade shows, (which I wrote about in a recent TurfPro blog).
Whist both our main shows’ schedules are currently in flux, this may afford us some time to reflect on what we really need from them as an industry in the future.
I personally would like to see an international show that showcases the very character of our industry and the people who work in it.
It should portray the best machinery, technologies, practices, products and services that are essential for maintaining our natural and manmade environments – vital for our wellbeing and health.
I would like to see either an annual or bi-annual show, that has the vision to reflect the opportunity to celebrate the industry we work in.
The venue should be able to cater for both indoor and outdoor exhibition space, thus enabling companies to carry out effective demonstrations of their equipment. We should also use this event to promote education and training initiatives.
But above all, we should be trying to attract a larger audience. The event should be used to promote the variety and scale of our industry, whilst at the same time attracting a wealth of new businesses and interested new parties.
We should also invite all secondary / private schools / colleges to attend the show, so we can enlighten them on the potential careers on offer within our diverse industry. The event should also have workshops, skills demonstrations and much, much more. We should use it to celebrate the best of our industry’s achievements.
Ideally, I would like it to be our industry’s own Glastonbury. We should be offering plenty of entertainment, food and fun therefore making it a must attend, not to be missed, event.
As for the existing show organisers, GMA and BIGGA, they and other potential organisations like ILAM, Fields in Trust, The Natural Trust, Keep Britain Tidy, APSE, Parks Management Forum, Amenity Forum and other should be all be involved in the show and if applicable receive a share of the profits.
I realise there is plenty to be discussed and mulled over in the coming months. I do think it is time we had a change in the way we promote our industry.
Finally, I would like to bring your attention to the issues of climate change and where I believe we should be working to ensure our valuable land assets are effectively managed and maintained for future generations.
As mentioned in another recent TurfPro article, there are over 27,000 urban greenspaces in the UK, with more than half the UK population regularly making use of them. The Covid-19 pandemic has reignited the wider debate over public and private greenspace, yet they remain an area underfunded and often in need of innovation and development.
There is a lot of work being done by parks professionals up and down the country to validate the importance of parks and local green space and more particularly the value they bring to society in terms of wellbeing and health.
No more so than Paul Rabbitts Chairman of the Parks Management Forum who recently launched the Forum during lockdown. In Pauls words, “It seemed like a good time. The crisis has turned the spotlight on the public parks we work in. The Government decreed that they must stay open; at a stroke endorsing our belief that they are an essential service. People have flocked to them in record numbers and staff have worked tirelessly through the crisis to keep parks clean and safe and beautiful.
“The Forum has not been set up to lobby for the need for good-quality public parks. That case has been made incessantly over the last twenty-five years. It has been set up to give a voice to parks professionals, who know more about these places than anyone.
"Running parks is an expert job and we are determined to make our voice heard by politicians as they formulate policies and make financial decisions which have huge repercussions for the viability of public open space. For too long parks, as a discretionary service, have been a poor relation of other public services, down the pecking order as just a ‘nice-to-have’. The Covid-19 crisis has shown that is not where they belong.”
When you consider the overall areas of landscape that we as an industry manage, it’s is truly mind blowing to think of the outcomes if we were unable to maintain this vital green space.
Can you imagine towns and cities without trees and grass areas? I cannot.
I believe now is the time to stop the decline and reinvest in the management and maintenance of our valuable green spaces, be it a football, rugby or cricket pitch, bowling green, school playing field or the many hundreds of acres of green space. All of us who work in this industry have a duty of care to maintain this for our future generations.
Most of us who work in the industry do care and understand these issues. It is really about empowering more people to come and work in our industry. Therefore, we must work harder to bring our industry together. Our annual reinvigorated show should become the vehicle to deliver many of the outcomes I have talked about.
Let’s hope we find a vaccine soon to put this pandemic behind us and we can all get back to what we do best - enjoying working in a vibrant grounds industry!