Solutions to our Technician Shortage

In my last blog post I talked about the lack of technicians in the golf and turf industry, and with reason, I didn’t really provide any solutions. The reason was I wanted to try and stir up some discussion on the subject to see what kind of solutions everyone else would suggest. While the post certainly got a lot of interest and a few phone calls / texts for the majority it was just a good read. I think all it did is reconfirm for me the lack of interest in doing something about the problem. I even targeted some retweets from a few organizations that even neglected that. I am certainly disappointed but not at all surprised.

I think the first solution I want to suggest is something we were working on doing with a college in Missouri. A few years ago I visited a technical college in Missouri armed with, at that time, our IGCEMA Certificate program study guide. The intention was to be able to provide the basic structure for a turf equipment management program. While in discussions with them and my previous experience being on the advisory committee at Lake City Community College the one thing I have come to realize is that people have no idea, outside of golf, what an equipment manager is or does. So building a program with the field of dreams hope that “if we build it they will come” is where we made our first mistake I think. The reality is that no one knows what the job is so how are you going to market that to potential students? Then when you look at most places these colleges were, they were not highly concentrated golf towns they were small towns. So my suggestion to colleges starting programs is this. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Create a program for OPE (Outdoor Power Equipment) you have a lot broader audience and its much easier to market to. The basic education needed is the same for both professions just on a little different scale and with a few specialized needs for the golf industry such as grinding. So first year would be OPE that would contain all the crossover education that could then direct a student to the more specialized areas for the second year such as Marine, Motorcyle, Golf, etc. This way colleges hurting for students could keep a core base of students starting out in OPE and then have the specialized classes once students chose their direction. I think it would be much easier marketing and instructors could help steer students into a specialized direction during that first year.

My next solution involves Assistant Golf Course Superintendents. I believe that the market is saturated and while each year there seem to be less and less students I do believe that the Superintendent role isn’t for all of them. I believe there should be a career path from Assistant Superintedent to Equipment Manager. While I don’t see a lot of Assistants that are mechanically enclined I do think they should be able to take classes whether at local colleges or even GIS and local shows to pick up those skills. This would open the doors a little further as far as options for these guys and in reality even if you chose to go back to being a Superintendent down the road the Equipment Manager experience would be invaluable.

During my time as CEO of IGCEMA one thing was abundantly clear the average age of technicians was around 50 -55 years old and in the next 10 years or so as they retire we are going to have a real issue. I got 2 calls this week from Supers looking for guys and I don’t see those stopping. We have to do something and coming up with solutions to the issue I think is a great start!

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Also thanks to Bill Brown and Turf Republic for supporting the posts the last few weeks.

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  1. Daniel Heinze
    February 02, 13:48 Reply

    As a 32 yr old assistant super turned equipment manager I whole heartily agree. A little over a year and a half ago our technician left and my superintendent couldn’t find a suitable replacement, he eventually came to me and asked if I had ever considered making the switch to EM (as I was currently acting the role of tech while we searched for another). I hadn’t ever thought about it but I enjoyed the work (some days more then others) and officially made the switch, luckily for me I work for a superintendent and club that are willing to send and pay for training. I’ve worked in Colorado, Kansas and Missouri so depending on the year and snowfall hanging around the shop as an assistant can get boring, when this happened I would spend my time helping out the mechanic and essentially becoming his assistant, I highly recommend this to any assistant because even if you don’t move into an equipment managers role the knowledge you gain there is invaluable. As I have seen first hand…you never know when you might be without a qualified technician. Also look around to your local VO-TECH and community colleges, after my switch I started taking welding and small engine classes that have helped out immensely, I have even gone back to those classes and spoken with the students about careers as an Equipment Manager because as these post state, there is a major shortage of qualified applicants and the jobs are out there for the taking.

    We have just started an equipment managers group within our local superintendents association (Heart of America Golf Course Superintendents Association) and we focus most of our meetings around education and training, I am consistently trying to draw interest from assistants around the area to attend but it just seems to fall on deaf ears (meetings are free and open to everyone). If anyone has thoughts or suggestions let me know, I am all ears.

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