Tag Archive for: Career

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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Jacobsen Support Greenkeeping Career

Jacobsen Support Greenkeeping Career: James Walker, a graduate of the African Turf Academy in Pretoria, South Africa, has praised Jacobsen for its commitment to education and helping to launch his greenkeeping career.

James graduated from the African Turf Academy, which is supported by Jacobsen and the R&A, in 2015.  James enjoyed success at the Academy based at the Silver Lakes Golf Estate and won the Student of the Year award in 2015.

Jacobsen Support Greenkeeping Career

Three years on, and James is now the assistant greenkeeper at JCB Golf & Country Club, the brand-new 18-hole golf course based at the construction equipment manufacturer’s headquarters in Staffordshire. The golf course is supplied by Textron Golf, which includes equipment and vehicles from Jacobsen, E-Z-GO, Cushman and Textron Fleet Management.

“It’s amazing that Jacobsen supported me throughout my education in South Africa, and now I am here at JCB which uses the equipment,” James said. “The African Turf Academy was the only one to offer an international qualification, which was run by Elmwood College, and Jacobsen was the only company willing to invest in education in the turf industry across South Africa. I must thank Jacobsen, the R&A and The African Turf Academy for all they have done for me in my career so far.”

The African Turf Academy offers an International Greenkeeping Qualification, a two-year full-time programme of study running in conjunction with the Tour Player Development Programme. On completion of the course, students receive an internationally recognised National Certificate in Greenkeeping from Elmwood College in St. Andrews, Scotland.

“I was introduced to Euan Grant at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio this year,” James continued. “As the general manager at JCB Golf & Country Club, he was looking for greenkeepers to come and work at the new course. I was excited at the prospect; it sounded like an exciting project and something I was keen to be involved in.”

Jacobsen Support Greenkeeping Career

“James and I met at GIS in February 2018,” Euan grant explained. “As soon as we started to talk, I knew he was exactly the kind of person I wanted at the JCB course. He’s passionate about greenkeeping, extremely hardworking and down-to-earth and committed to his own professional development. I would also like to thank Jacobsen for giving people like James the opportunity to enter the turf maintenance profession and supporting the future of the industry.”

“I’m looking forward to my future here,” James concluded. “It’s a spectacular course with the best equipment and resources available, and whilst the climate is very different to South Africa, I’m adjusting well!”

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Oxford United Groundsman On A Career In Grass

Pitch perfect: Oxford United’s groundsman on a career in grass: There is a sign stuck to the whiteboard behind Paul Currier’s desk which reads ‘Every day is a holiday for a man who loves his job’.

Five minutes with the head groundsman at Oxford United is enough to know it is not a hollow statement.

Oxford United Groundsman On A Career In Grass

Currier, 58, is in the 40th year of a career which has taken him from school pitches to a host of Football League clubs – including tomorrow’s opponents Northampton Town – via a spell tending the lawns at Northamptonshire Police’s headquarters.

For someone who is quick to admit he was not the most academic at school, it has been quite a journey.

“I’ve always had this philosophy that if you get up in the morning and can’t wait to get to work then you’re enjoying your job,” Currier says, leaning back on a desk chair in his office, tucked under the East Stand.

“You’ve got to be dedicated. It can be seven days a week, it can be 12 hours a day and it’s not one of the best paid jobs in the world.

“But I’m passionate about my football and I’m passionate about my grass.”

Those who look after pitches tend to have a gruff demeanour, forever barking at people to ‘keep off the pitch’.

 But then they have plenty to worry about.

Currier, who reckons he walks 15 miles on a matchday to prepare the pitch, said: “All groundsman are the same, we’re all classed as grumpy sods.

“You have to police it because otherwise everybody will go on.

“They’ll think ‘it looks all right, I’ll go on it’, but you don’t see the damage until Christmas, so you’ve got to keep the traffic to the minimum.

“I have a checklist that I do pre-match, everything’s done, but you’ve still got that worry at the back of your mind.

“You wince when players go into the back of the net and they pull themselves up with it. It just pings everything off.

“The worst nightmare for any groundsman is to be called on while the game is going on.”

Then there are pests and diseases to lose sleep over, but his main obsession is the weather.

Pitch technology has improved markedly in the last 20 years, with the Kassam Stadium among the increasing number of surfaces in the Football League to mix the grass with artificial fibres.

Currier, brought in when the pitch was completely relaid by GreenFields in 2015, checks the forecast every four hours in the winter months.

And here, the Kassam Stadium’s open western end can be either a benefit or a hindrance.

He said: “I’m pretty confident you won’t get a game called off here for waterlogging.

“Because the pitch is so wide open to wind, it can dry twice as quickly as anywhere else.

“You can get a downpour while you’re playing and it won’t affect it, barring the odd splash.

“Temperatures drop and there’s constant shade down one side – because of the South Stand – which is two degrees colder than the other side.”

While he is a West Bromwich Albion supporter, spending so much time at a club tends to create a bond.

But United have had a stronger pull than most, as the first club where he is invited into the manager’s office after games.

He said: “I’m lucky here at Oxford because they treat me as one of the team, there’s a good rapport with the managers.”

Given the expertise built up over four decades, you might presume Currier has a perfectly-tended lawn at home in Northamptonshire.

“No, mine’s artificial,” he grins.

“When I’m at work I’m constantly thinking about grass, so when I’m at home I just like to chill out and relax and go ‘I shan’t be cutting that today’.”

Even for a man who is always on holiday, there are limits.

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