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Message from the new chairman

This article first appeared in On Course - Issue 21

As the new Chairman of the GTC Technical Committee my first action must be to pay tribute to the work of my predecessor, Dr Mike Canaway. He will be a hard act to follow says Nick Bisset.

The Training Committee has been pro-active in promoting the value of training opportunities for greenkeeping staff at golf clubs and the result of their work to date and that of BIGGA, has been a substantial improvement of professional standards resulting in more recognition by golf clubs. There are a great many changes going on in education and training and there are more in the pipeline. The GTC rightly decided to follow the government guidelines and buy in to the N/SVQ system. This is not likely to change substantially in the future but there is considerable tinkering going on around the fringes. As everyone is aware the N/SVQ system involves both on-the-job training and a knowledge element which may be undertaken both on- and off-the job as well as job specific qualifications and key skills for apprentices. The system involves a partnership between the employer, training provider (whether private or college) and the trainee. This is the most obvious part of the system. Behind that lies QCA (Quality Curriculum Authority) which approves qualifications, Awarding Bodies which develop and administer qualifications according to rules and requirements laid down by QCA, and the LSC (Learning and Skills Council) which provides funding for approved qualifications. Also involved is the SSC (Sector Skills Council) which, for land- based industries, is Lantra.

The whole lot is obviously (or perhaps not) overseen from a policy point of view by the DfES (Department for Education and Skills).

The following section is personal opinion, not necessarily that of the GTC. The N/SVQ system is designed basically for large organisations operating at one or more large sites where supervision and training can be done by specialists on site with large numbers of staff.

How is that reconciled with golf courses where there are few members of staff, all at different skill levels? The GTC has been pro-active by training assessors within the industry. Awarding bodies require that assessors have to undergo up-dating and observation by Internal Verifiers at least annually.

Does every assessor have a learner every year? The GTC has organised up-dating sessions at Harrogate in January for the past two years. The LSC in England decided that there would be much reduced funding for apprentices over the age of 25. There are many in the golf industry who have been working for years who have no qualification so where do government policies for 'Learning for Life' and a fully qualified workforce stand? It costs clubs to provide for this older group both financially and in time.

It would appear at times that the bodies listed above do not converse and there is little joined up thinking.

So it will be clear that the GTC has a great deal to do to fight our corner in the labyrinthine corridors of the bodies listed above. It is extremely important the qualifications obtained by greenkeepers match those, at whatever level, in other industries, otherwise it would just be a special qualification with no currency value.

Another aspect which the GTC must continue to do is to encourage employers (represented on the GTC by the British Home Golf Unions) and especially individual clubs to recognise the role they have to play continuing to improve the quality of greenkeeping standards and therefore the maintenance and management of golf courses for the future.

In my role as Chairman, I will support David Golding in all the discussions he has with all the bodies mentioned above to ensure that the best possible result for golf is obtained. Remember that the work already done by the GTC in providing learning materials, manuals and qualified assessors on the ground is held up in the land-based industry as a model to follow. Your continued support is vital.

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