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Armed forces background ‘a perfect fit’ for career in groundscare

Armed forces background ‘a perfect fit’ for career groundscare: A former serviceman who started a new career as a technician working on machinery for groundscare professionals says the sector offers huge opportunities for those looking to resettle after life in the armed forces.

Andy Irvine is one of a number of individuals who have started new jobs at John Deere dealerships across the UK and Ireland following many years in service.

Armed forces background ‘a perfect fit’ for career groundscare

Armed forces background ‘a perfect fit’ for career groundscare

Based at Turner Groundscare Machinery near Chester since last April, Andy stepped into a field service technician role, supporting customers at world-renowned football clubs, golf courses and rugby stadiums across north-west England.

He has recently been promoted to workshop manager and says there is job satisfaction and progression on offer for anyone leaving the forces with the appropriate skills.

Andy served 14 years in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), running workshops of up to 25 people on home soil and during overseas deployments.

He worked on a wide variety of machines ranging from chainsaws to quad bikes and diggers to main battle tanks.

“I’ve always been interested in engineering,” Andy said. “When I left school, I worked in a local garage I got a really good grounding of engineering standards.

“My foreman at the time said something to me that I’ve taken with me throughout my career; anything you touch has to be at a certain standard when it goes out the door, and if it’s not, then it’s your reputation that’s on the line.”

Andy said that the only way he would leave the army is for his dream job, which was to work for John Deere.

“The John Deere brand is the best of the best in the sector,” Andy said. “I couldn’t think of anything more I’d rather turn spanners on.”

Andy was keen to get started in a new career so he interviewed for a position at his local Turner Grondscare Machinery dealership. He was still contracted to the army for six months, but general manager Gareth Baker agreed to hold the post for him.

As a technician, Andy worked on a wide variety of machines, including the latest innovations from John Deere such as the 225 E-Cut which is the company’s first fully-electric walk-behind greens mower for golf courses. He serviced and repaired a equipment from Gator utility vehicles to compact tractors.

Being on the road daily meant he could be working at Liverpool FC’s AXA Training Centre in the morning and supporting the team at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in the afternoon.

Andy notes similarities in working as a technician and being in the army. He says every day is different, and when he was called to a job he never knew exactly what to expect.

“When you get the call, you only know you’re going out to a repair, where the location is and what the machine is, but everything else has to be dealt with when you arrive,” Andy said.

“The pressure is on you. Whether it’s soldiers or greenkeepers, people look to you to relay your intelligence and your thought process into what the fault could be and explain to them why a part has failed and how the issue is resolved.”

He describes the differences between army life and civvy street as “positive”, with some of the main benefits being routine working hours and a better work-life balance for him and his family.

“I’m finally able to plan my year in advance,” Andy said. “I now know that I can spend my evenings and weekends with my family and can even book holidays knowing I can actually go on them.”

Andy hopes to encourage those thinking of leaving the service to make the change and start a new career with John Deere.

“If you have the right mindset and you’re positive and proactive, you’ll be completely fine transitioning from military life to civilian life,” Andy said. It’s a step forwards towards not just a better job, but a better lifestyle.

“You’ll get an element of control back in your life. Since leaving, I can put my hand on my heart saying that I’m in a better place, workwise and mentally, than I was working for the army.”

John Deere launched its Military Hiring Programme in 2023 in a bid to attract people such as Andy to the agriculture and professional groundscare sectors. He thinks it will be a great springboard for those wanting to resettle into the sector.

Interested service and ex-service members can learn more about the programme and fill out a contact card by visiting www.deere.com/JDMHP.

After making contact, they will be put in touch with an individual from the John Deere network who has resettled following a career in the armed forces to discuss all potential options.

Gareth Baker added: “Andy’s been a breath of fresh air. His work rate and organisational skills are exceptional, which is exactly what you need for a role like this.

“We were prepared to wait for him to complete his transition from the army for six months, primarily because of his management experience.

“He’s now the workshop manager and has built a team underneath him, including a technician who has recently joined our team from the Navy.

“The calibre of people that have come into the sector from the armed forces really stands out.”

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