Growing people as important as grass for sports turf

6 November 2023

From bowling greens to race tracks, and golf courses to hockey fields, training people is the key to keeping sports turf in the best possible nick, and updated training programmes have been launched to make that happen.

Primary ITO | Te Pūkenga has around 200 sports turf learners around the country and has refreshed the Level 3 and 4 New Zealand Certificates in Horticulture Sports Turf, as well as the New Zealand Apprenticeship.

Each of the certificates can be done individually or as part of an apprenticeship. Primary ITO Sector Manager for sports turf Tom Antscherl says the programmes have strong backing from employers.

“These really are the industry standard, and employers want the confidence of knowing their people are properly trained. It’s a very scientific discipline and when you’ve got high-profile facilities like Eden Park, the Basin Reserve or international quality golf courses, it’s critical that the people looking after them have the right skills.”

A difference to some other sectors is that sports turf tends to have more people in it for the long haul, building a career. “That means that training does set them up. The programmes ensure that people learn about a whole range of facilities. They might be specialising in one area, but they can apply that knowledge wherever they work.”

Tom says the updated programmes include changes like more of a focus on the new high-tech synthetic surfaces often being built into sports venues. Other new parts of the Level 3 training include irrigation systems, spraying, and fertilisers.

At the more advanced Level 4 programme, there are updates around budgeting, knowledge of soil, maintenance plans and more.

With a strong demand for New Zealand-trained experts overseas, Tom says training new people is important. “It’s really important that businesses are investing in their people and particularly people that they know are committed to a career.”

From looking after greens to looking after learners

Training adviser Robert Maxwell knows about the benefits of sports turf training having completed his qualifications on golf courses and sports fields before turning his attention to supporting learners.

Robert joined Primary ITO in 2021 after around 15 years working on golf courses and sports fields with Auckland Council.

He ran the public Chamberlain Park Golf Course in Mt Albert, before moving into a role in the council’s team looking after sports fields.

While there, he completed both his Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications in sports turf.

“It’s about formalising knowledge and giving you the confidence that when you see an issue, you know how to resolve it. Before going through that training, I might have thought there was an issue but not have the knowledge to make sure, and then put in an action plan for it.”

In his role with Primary ITO, Robert works with around 50 sports turf learners around Auckland, from people just starting out right through to finishing their qualifications. “One guy signed up on his first day at the company.”

Having been in the industry himself, Robert says he likes to work with learners to show them how training can help them progress. “My first job was painting lines on the field. Going through my Level 3 and 4 was real progress. That’s something I can bring to learners – it can bring a real spring to their step to see how they can build their careers.”

He says a benefit of involvement in training is the opportunity to meet other people in the industry and share knowledge.

Now off the mowers and other equipment himself, Robert says he’s still always interested in the condition of the courses and fields, whether it’s on TV or in person when he plays cricket for Waitakere Cricket Club. “Most of the fields I’m playing on are run by guys I used to work with, so I always drop them a text and tell them what I thought.”

For more information on these programmes, get in touch with your local Training Adviser by filling in the form below.

Please note, to be eligible for these programmes, learners MUST be employed in the sports turf industry.