Proceedings

PR – Identifying Training Needs In New Zealand’s Sports Turf Industry

New Zealand is a small nation with 4 million people and a 2005 GDP of US$105 billion. Traditionally the country’s economy has relied on export earnings from an efficient agricultural system. In the past 50 years it has moved from a primarily agrarian economy to a more diversified one that competes globally. An important component of this diversified agriculture is the “sports turf industry”, which supports the country’s enthusiasm for both active and passive sporting activities. In 2006, the New Zealand Sports Turf Industry Training Organization (NZSTITO) initiated a labor skills assessment project. The purpose was to allow NZSTITO to identify critical training areas as input in designing programs for training providers. An internet-based survey was conducted and a total of 296 usable questionnaires were received. Results showed that nearly 24,000 people were employed by the sports turf industry and of these one-third (34%) were full-time, one-fourth part-time (24%) or volunteer (23%) and one-fifth (19%) contracted. Nearly all (93%) employees were male and most (86%) white, with a minority Maori (8%) and Pacific Islanders (3%). Two-thirds were 46 years or older, with 28 percent over 61 years; only 11 percent were in the 22–30 year range. Pay rates were low with over half (55%) of hourly workers earning between US$7.00–$10.00 an hour and another 20 percent under US$7.00 hourly. For salaried employees, over two-thirds made below US$28,000. The high numbers on very low pay partially reflects the large volunteer component of the work force. An adequate labor supply was a problem with one-fourth of respondents claiming it was not sufficient. Addressing specific skill shortage areas, the primary need was “unqualified staff with no certification” (42%) followed closely (41%) by “qualified technical staff with Level 4 or higher certification”. The third ranked area (24%) was “qualified managers with business and technical training”. The primary cause (66%) of labor shortages was “low wages and salaries”. Next (39%) was a “lack of advertising and promotion”, followed closely (38%) by “a perception that sports turf lacks career advancement”. Financial investment in training programs by industry organizations was low. Over half (44%) of all firms invested less than $500 annually with an additional 12 percent between $500 and $1,000. In terms of future training needs, over one-fourth (26%) chose general-purpose staff as the most critical. Just over one-fifth (22%) indicated qualified staff with level 3 education, followed by technical staff with level 4 or higher education (20%) and qualified managers (19%) with business and technical training. The NZ sports turf industry is struggling financially and reasons are many and varied. Primary ones include too many sporting venues with too few members resulting in low wages and salaries for employees. Many clubs are run as social organizations and not as businesses. As a result, qualified employees often leave the industry or country in search of more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. The NZ sports turf industry is at a crossroads and must make hard choices if it is to be viable in the long term.

Keywords: Demographics, employees, labor skills, training programs.

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Author(s): Cisar, J.L., Haydu, J., Hodges, A.W., van Blokland, P.J., Way, B.

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Organizations(s): Dept. of Environmental Horticulture, University of Florida, Food & Resource Economics Dept., University of Florida, New Zealand Sports Turf Industry Training Organisation, Palmerston North