Educating the next generation

Following on from my previous blog which considered the importance of who the next generation of horticulturalists and turf and amenity managers may be, I believe this can only happen if we have a strong culture and appetite for training and learning.

The sportsturf industry is widely renowned for passing on its skills and experiences. For many years, individuals have benefited greatly by this method of learning. Coupled with the fact both the two industry organisations BIGGA and the IOG, along with many colleges and universities, have provided an excellent platform for people to gain relevant qualifications for their chosen careers.

However, we must not forget the many hundreds of employers, who support these training and educational opportunities, along with a number of manufacturers who themselves have set up and sponsored some wonderful student training programmes over the years.

One such company who has been at the forefront of sponsoring and setting up training initiatives is Benhards under the direction of their chairman, Stephen Bernhard, who has always championed the benefits of learning the skills of our unique turf grass industry.

For many years the company have worked in partnership with BIGGA to sustain their annual Golf Industry Show (GIS) delegation trip to America, enabling ten greenkeepers a trip of lifetime giving them a unique opportunity attend the GIS Show and visit a couple of golf courses.

In total Bernhards have over the years enabled over 180 greenkeepers to attend the GIS show and benefit from this unique trip.

Bernhard and Company Limited are one of the leaders in the sharpening systems market and one of the world’s most influential forces in the presentation and quality of turf grass. In the USA they are in 75 of the top 100 golf courses, and over 65% of the World Top 100 golf courses.

They continue to support and develop research and education programmes, and understand better than most the relationship between sustainability, conservation and a keenly run maintenance department. Over the years the company has worked at many of the many major golfing tournaments that include the Masters, US Open and the Ryder Cup to name a few.

Their company dates back over 150 years. The relationships they have built up over the years support their work and their ethos of ‘excellent products, unrivalled service and the key focus on money saving maintenance’ has without doubt kept them at the top of this ever growing and changing market place.

On 11th June 2019, I was invited to attend the opening of the company’s latest initiative the new Bernhard Academy at the company’s factory facilities in Haverhill, Suffolk.

The Bernhard Academy is set to become a hub of knowledge for the turf industry and a centre promoting learning and development across the globe. In addition to promoting education to UK turf specialists, the Academy will develop a training programme for Bernhard’s distributors from across the US, Asia and Europe to help enhance their knowledge of turf health solutions.

Working in partnership with Mow-Sure Training Ltd, the Academy aims to train customers, technicians and distributors’ sales team to promote turf health, cutting precision and superior playability and eventually to get the most out of Bernhard’s product portfolio.

The accredited training will be delivered in several formats at the purpose-built facility at Haverhill, including hands-on training, theory or online learning. A wide range of modular and short courses is planned, with the two signature courses being a Turf Technician Course and a Turf Manager’s Course.

On arrival we were given a tour of the 35,000 sq ft factory facility that was opened in 2012 that is home to the design team, manufacture of the Express Dual and Anglemaster Grinders and the training centre of the company.

Once we completed our tour of the facility it was time for the official opening ceremony that was compared by Steve Nixon, company Director who thanked everybody for coming and introduced Stephen Bernhard to explain why the company had invested in this new Academy.

Stephen first spoke of his passion for the company and how its mantra for training and education had played a key part in the development of the company. The company has given him the opportunities to develop his products to fulfil the needs of sports turf industry, primarily to maintain and manage natural grass playing surfaces.

Stephen stated that the idea for an academy was first muted by the Americans some 15 years ago. However, it was not until he had the backing and confidence from fellow directors, Steven Nixon and Iqitdar Hassan, and the fact that the timing was right, to launch this new Academy scheme.

It was then left to the Guest of Honour, Samantha Stutt, Head of Membership Development at BIGGA to officially open the Academy. Samantha is no stranger to education and learning, having spent the last 26 years working for BIGGA, developing their Continue to Learn programme. That now sees over 3000 delegates attending the training and education opportunities at each year’s BTME show.

I would like to thank Bernhard’s for inviting me to attend the formal opening and I am sure it will develop and become a fine asset for both the company and all those who are privileged to attend this excellent facility. Those who do attend will no doubt become one of the new generation who, in years to come, will endeavour to pass on the extraordinary and demanding skills of a turf professional.

Laurence Gale, TurfPro editor

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