TurfPro editor, Laurence Gale writes:
One of the biggest challenges our industry faces in the coming years will be inspiring the next generation of turf professionals to join our sector. We desperately need to start finding ways to encourage more people to come and work in this diverse, international industry.
To help start this process, I have asked a number of our leading professionals to write a piece about how they came to work in this industry and the opportunities it has given them.
Richard Campey, Chairman of Campey Turf Care Systems
Who or what inspired you to take up your career?
Towards late 1975 I applied for a job as a service engineer, advertised in the local paper for Sisis Equipment (Macclesfield) Ltd.
I was selected for interview but failed. Instead in the letter they sent they said that they may shortly have a job available as a sales demonstrator and if it was of interest to make an appointment to see their general sales manager, Arthur Harrison. This I did and was offered the job.
I started 2nd January 1976 in an industry that I did not know existed and it has been a part of my life ever since..
Which individuals have inspired you or helped you develop professionally?
Sisis in those days was run by Eric Staniforth MBE, who joined William Hargreaves & Son Ltd (as it was known then) when he left school at 14 along with Arthur Harrison who later became sales director. Their ethos for the business was to find out what the customer wanted and the company would then build it. They had a close relationship with groundsmen and greenkeepers, especially those who wanted to move the industry forward.
Meeting Eddie Seward is another moment I shall never forget. He tapped me on the shoulder after seeing one of the first demonstrations we carried out with a 2M Koro Fieldtopmaker at Stamford Bridge and said “That machine is just what we need to improve the courts at Wimbledon but it is far too big. Make a smaller one and let me see it working on a court and if it works, I will buy one”. So, we did and less than two years later he bought one and another shortly after. Another incredible player in this industry is Steve Braddock and his dedication to achieving top class natural grass playing surfaces. He has taught many professionals the correct method and this is evident in what they are achieving around the world today.
What machinery or innovations have in your opinion helped drive our industry forward or helped make your job easier?
I will not mention the names of three pieces of machinery that have helped to drive the industry forward, but in my opinion these are:
- The ability to carry out aeration and decompaction to greater depths using vertical or linear action machines.
- Machines that can apply topdressing to all sports surfaces by spinning action with minimal adjustment and with perfect spread pattern up to 10m wide.
- Tractor mounted machines that can remove large amounts of organic matter and the dreaded poa annua - leaving a perfect level and clean surface.
What concerns do you have for the future of our industry?
This past twelve months has put all businesses and associations under tremendous pressure, mainly because none of us know how it is going to turn out. Perhaps it is the right time for all sides of the industry to come together and shout as one voice.
Here in the UK we should be telling everyone what a great industry the sportsturf industry, is worldwide. From what I have seen in my travels over the years, professional standards and equipment, are much higher here in the UK than anywhere else in the world. Machinery is better built and ahead of its time. For example, a machine that we brought to market well over twenty years ago is only just catching on in the USA now, that is how far behind they are in some aspects of turf maintenance.
But if we do not let people know through our educational programmes then the industry will not progress.
I appreciate that things will not change overnight, but it seems that our industry is awfully slow to react at times. Over 40 years ago I clearly remember Eric Staniforth telling the guys in charge of greenkeeping and groundsmanship to alter their ways starting first with changing their job titles - head greenkeeper should be called course managers and head Groundsmen should become grounds managers - to reflect the wide area of responsibilities they cover.
Their value and depth of knowledge is only just starting to be recognised now as more and more of these expert individuals are starting to leave the profession.
How do you think we can entice the next generation of industry professionals to come and work in this industry?
We need to become more involved with potential youngster recruits when they are at school. Target open days or careers evenings - perhaps industry representatives should attend? Or is anyone from the GMA, AEA or BIGGA in touch with County Education Departments explaining what careers are available?
Up till around 10 years ago as a local employer we had contact with local schools and used to take one a year in for a couple of weeks each year, but this contact has diminished over the years and we could do with introducing more apprenticeships, trainee courses with the official backing of our industry organisations.
How have recent events impacted on your job and how would you like to see the government support our industry?
Who would have thought at the beginning of 2020, events would have turned out like they have?
I suppose the government have been trying to govern with one hand tied behind their back. They seem to have handed money out very quickly but slow at times to react quick enough to lockdowns. Bear in mind that whatever any government gives they will eventually take it back one way or another!
My company has had little help apart from a couple of months when we had some staff on furlough. This gave us time to work out what was happening and from the first week of June last summer, we started bringing staff back and by the end of July we were all back and still are. Last year we altered the management structure of Campey Turf Care Systems. Julia is now MD, John and Lee are now directors and Neil is now company secretary. All are in their mid to late 30’s with knowledge gained each with a minimum of 15 years working for Campey’s.
They bought me a new chair and called me Chairman! After nearly 45 years in the industry, it is time for the young ones to take it forward and I know they are more than capable of doing this.