I attended the annual Nebraska Turfgrass Conference in Omaha this past week. It is always a good networking opportunity that reveals much about the state of our industry.
The most discussed topic was the difficulty in finding good help whether that be general laborers or qualified Assistants and Mechanics. Turf programs are putting out very few students now and assistants and internships are going largely unfilled. If you want a summer diversion you could easily intern at some great clubs like Pebble Beach or Pine Valley. There are several reasons for this lack of qualified people but three main ones stand out. Golf participation has been stagnant so the building of new courses and new opportunities are limited for turf grads. The tightening of the golf market has also reduced resources at many courses limiting the pay scale for assistants and mechanics. Combine these two main issues and it is hard to persuade people to pursue a superintendent career when they may be stuck as an assistant for several years making a barely feasible wage. Finally, golf course maintenance is work and sometimes requires long hours and dedication that many youngsters do not find appealing.
I have been fortunate to have two long time assistants/mechanics during my tenure here at Wild Horse. That stability and experience definitely helps produce a better product on the course. As far as workers are concerned we have shifted from a younger staff to a workforce of retirees. That has been of necessity as high schoolers have more activities and less time for work. But also the younger people have shown little interest in our summer crew positions as of late.
Golf course superintendents are having to be creative in finding and keeping staff. Flexibility in scheduling is critical as is being more wage competitive. Also efficiency is of utmost importance because crews are smaller and less experienced than ever. Being a good manager is key to utilizing worker resources most effectively.
I am always proud of our crew that does their best to keep Wild Horse at its best. I ask you to thank them when you see them this summer. They are becoming a more rare breed all the time!