Ask most golf course superintendents across the region what their biggest challenge is and you will probably hear them reply with the word "labor." Finding quality employees was an issue for several years leading up to the pandemic. Post-pandemic, it is even worse.
“By far the number one issue I hear from our members is not being able to attract or retain good employees, this is a tough issue for a large-scale solution,” says Adam Ikamas, CGCS, executive director of the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association (MiGCSA) and 22-year GCSAA member. “However, after a fellow member of the golf business suggested an online job fair, the light bulb went off that rather than that, a social media campaign may be more convenient to get our message in front of younger folks who may be looking for a summer job. Originally, I was going to go forward with this for just the MiGCSA, but every sector of golf is in dire need, so I brought it to the Michigan Golf Alliance and we went into it together.”
To help their members attract local talent, the Michigan Golf Alliance – made up of the MiGCSA, Golf Association of Michigan, Greater Michigan Club Managers Association, Michigan Golf Course Association, Michigan Turfgrass Foundation and Michigan Section PGA – came together in a social media campaign. The campaign will run for two weeks utilizing Facebook and Instagram ads.
The ads provide an interactive map of all golf courses in the state of Michigan and provides the main contact info of each course. Utilizing the interactive map allows potential employees an easy opportunity to find the golf course nearest to them – and they should not have to look far. With nearly 800 golf courses in Michigan, chances are that a course is just down the road.
“If we see good results, we may take this a step further with a more specific message across many social media platforms,” adds Ikamas. “If we get even one employee for one golf course out of this, I think it will have been a success.”
The labor challenge is not exclusive to the Great Lakes region – it is an issue nationwide, as well. To help members attract and retain employees, GCSAA is working with career-oriented groups at the national level.
One group is the FFA. The FFA national conference in is held in Indianapolis each October. Shelia Finney, GCSAA’s senior director of member programs and I have a GCSAA booth; FFA presents at a booth during the Golf Industry Show, as well. GCSAA also sponsors ten FFA Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) scholarships. The SAE scholarships are awarded to FFA students who create a business plan demonstrating how they will use the money for their specific ag experience.
Another group we are working with at the national level is the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), which was previously known as VOTEC. Similar to FFA, GCSAA staff attends the ACTE national conference – known as CareerTech Vision – to promote the various positions and careers available in the golf course management industry.
GCSAA’s First Green program continues to expand as well. First Green is the only STEM education and environmental outreach program in the United States and Canada that uses golf courses as learning labs.
First Green pairs golf course superintendents with local schools and youth groups for unique Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities right on the course. Through this program, students are exposed to careers available in the golf course management profession and see firsthand how superintendents are using STEM education each day.