Saturday, 23 January 2016

Education, education, education

I have always been a great believer in staff training. The better your staff are trained the better they can preform. 
Staff tend be more motivated and go onto have bigger and better careers. 
Once the staff move up the ladder or onto a new challenge it's easier to find quality replacements as people want to be somewhere they will get investment in them as well as the company. Either way the winners are the golf club. 

I have been lucky enough to be part of and lead teams like this. My previous team all achieved good qualifications, which not only improved our team but the course. 
We were lucky enough to win awards in Ecology, Gold medals of excellence from City and Guilds, an award from Princess Anne, Bernhard delegation award winners (trips to the USA to look at courses) and a Student Greenkeeper of the year winner in both regional and then the National final. (This meant my previous deputy got spend studying in the states at the winter turf school at one of there leading university's). The positive from all of this is a highly skilled team 
who take pride in their course. 

Richard Branson famously said 'If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients'and that sums up my philosophy! 
Now before I hear the cry of how much does this all cost... Staff training can be done for free, this could include in-house training or even course visits to other sites to gain ideas or see how they are doing things or it can cost some money but money wisely spent. 
One of the skills is knowing how to access funding, where to find the best value for money and what training investments will give the best returns for the investment for the club. For example a qualified chainsaw operator could save us as much as £500 per day with the cost of the course being around £500 including PPE! So as you can see it's a no brainer! We also need to know our limits and when it is best to bring in a specialist. 

So what have we at Stoneham started so far?

We have already started staff training daily, this could include daily tasks and how best to complete them. This can work both ways as I may have ways I would like things done and there maybe ways that work better at Stoneham that I need to know (see you never stop learning). 

One of the big things has been to improve health and safety along with looking at security. Training on the new machines has started with all staff now competent with the hand mowers for example. A full days training will be given to the spray operators when the new sprayer arrives and full certificated operator training will be given to all the new machines once they arrive in March.

We have enrolled three of the staff in college courses. Graham Hastie and Levi Pethick have started there Level 3 Diploma in Sports Turf. This is a supervisory qualification and a must for there Deputy Head and First Assistant roles respectfully. 
Steve Jones our newest member of the team is currently doing his Level 2 Diploma in Greenkeeping. This is the first stage qualification within the industry. 

Rob Patrick gained European Tour experience this year out in Turkey. This is something we will be working on as a team as experiences can be more important than qualifications as you get a real hands on approach to how others are doing the job. The benefit is you always come back with ideas for the team from these events which again will benefit the course. 

The team have been involved in the BIGGA (British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association, the greenkeepers version of the PGA or GCMA) educational days at both regional and national levels. Some of the staff have attended turf club seminars (short talks) on various subjects or day events looking at courses that are doing major renovations. 

Stoneham team visit Barton on Sea to look at bunker reconstruction project

The team are now CPD (Continuing Professional Development)  'Active' through BIGGA and are recording there development. They will now be working towards there certifications (firstly Approved and then Milestone) in this area in the coming years. This is vitally import for me as it keeps us up to date on modern practices and legislation, it also shows our thirst to learn more to keep improving not only our selves but the golf course. 

Paul Martin and Levi will be attending a chainsaw course in March to give us more options especially as Charlie has gone down to part time now after 43 years of service. Charlie is great at chainsawing and I am glad he will still be here three days a week as his experience at the club is second to none and he's quite simply a Stoneham legend in my eyes but we need to have more cover for the extra days as we move forward. 

BIGGA Turf Managment Exhibition 

This year Graham, Levi, Rob, Paul, Steve and Myself all attended BTME. 
This is basically the greenkeepers national conference which is held in Harrogate every January at the conference centre. Over 8,000 Greenkeepers attend during the week with Seminars starting on Sunday going right through to Wednesday. 

The trade show starts on Tuesday and runs until Thursday. The show has all the latest pieces of machinery, chemicals, fertilisers, training and much, much more. 

We staggered the team to cover work back at the club but with January doing its normal the course spent most of its time under water or frozen (plus Graham B and Charlie were there to hold the fort and done a good job). 

Some of the team travelled up Monday morning arriving around midday and after a quick change of clothes, so the freshly ironed shirts, trousers and Stoneham jumpers (thanks Ian) all looked smart. We then started our seminars. These included Time management and Woodland and Habitat Managment. 

The seminar timings varied through out the week with some being all day from 9am -5pm or half day 9am-1pm etc to as little as 1 hours talks. From Sunday morning right through until 5pm on Wednesday there was always something on with over ten workshop rooms, seminar rooms, conference rooms and Royal halls! 

The greenstaff attended many different seminars including Heathland Management, Growing fine fescues, Managing soil based greens, Aeration, de compaction, Wetting agents, Soil biology all of which were agronomy based. We  also attended talks on course renovations and changes see below:- 

Remedy Oak (a great talk on how and why the changed the greens)

Oakmont (amazing seeing a course go from tree lined to almost links type for this years US Open over 30 years). If you agree or not it's amazing to see the changes. 

We also attended talks on Tournaments including the Senior Open and how they were drilled for wet weather and for four different tee starts in the planning. They ended up using them all! 

Career development talks were also attended these included Get in go far, Essential communication skills. 
I was also lucky enough to be a speaker again this year. I held a workshop on 'being promoted'. This included communication skills, CV writing, interview techniques, covering letters and how to act for the job you want. This was aimed at assistant greenkeepers and deputy's looking to progress and lasted 3 hours...(I know 3 hours of me going on and you thought these blogs were bad enough!)

On the Tuesday night the welcome celebration was held in the Royal Hall. This is the annual award ceremony with prizes going to the best team of the year (St Andrews), ecology awards, life time achievements, young greenkeeper award, two Master Greenkeepers number 66 and 67 in the world were awarded their certificates.Then around 10 greenkeepers were awarded there Milestone Certificates on stage too. 

 I was lucky enough to one of them a year after being up there to collect my Diploma. I have set the staff an aim, to get up there on stage in the next three years.
This truly is a great evening with a brass band playing you in and guest speakers and presenters. This year it was hosted by Naga Munchetty a bbc presenter who is golf mad was very funny, friendly and a great presenter (obviously). Following the awards a drinks reception is laid on and we managed to get a team photo with Naga. 

I think Rob may have even challenged her to golf match :-)

In between seminars we spent time looking around the show and looking at things that we could bring back to the club. For example trenchers to help with our drainage issues! 

Our evenings away from the conference were spent in restaurants chatting about Greenkeeping to all of those we met. You really can't get away from it with everyone in town all talking Greenkeeping. 


We have a fantastic team at Stoneham and I truly believe that the training we are offering is essential as we look to improve the course year on year. These few days a year will make a huge difference. 
The membership will benefit from it, the course will benefit and they will benefit. 


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