Greater emphasis placed on PGA trainees

By Dominic Sainsbury
New Zealand PGA General Manager

In a response to the ever-changing demands and requirements of the golf industry, 2019 sees the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) of New Zealand traineeship now being delivered completely in-house by the education team.

The PGA of New Zealand has worked hard over the last 18 months with its industry training organisation, known as skills active, to have a world leading comprehensive programme available for new professionals entering the industry.

Having previously outsourced some of the business and facility management components of the programme, it often resulted in some of the education around these areas not having as strong a relevance and connection to the industry as we would have liked.

Over the past 18 months we went through the process of collaborating with industry leaders to write our own facility management and small business content, which has now been benchmarked by skills active.

This was an important process for us to ensure that as well as gaining the internationally recognised PGA full member qualification, trainees now receive qualifications in facility management from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) to complement those in coaching that already exist to further strengthen their resumes.

With four key areas of training, including facility management, small business and retail, coaching and game development, trainees work their way through a mix of on-line material, practical application and delivery, and two weeks worth of contact courses in each of the three stages.

Throw into the mix 20 tournament rounds per year and a full-time position working in the industry, PGA trainee professionals certainly have their hands full.

The mandate around the content that fills the programme has two key goals.

The first is to provide a valuable learning opportunity and the second is that that opportunity provides real world value to the trainee and to the industry.

In 2019, for example, stage two trainees are running youth golf participation and coaching programmes, implementing or updating their facilities marketing plans and reviewing their strategies, going through the process of on-boarding a partner at their facility or in their business, running golf equipment fitting days for players, getting exposure to the budgets and financial forecasting at their place of work and implementing game improvement and coaching programmes for golfers of all levels of experience.

The types of roles that we are seeing trainee professionals hold throughout their time in the programme has also gone through a period of change. While traditionally working solely at green grass facilities in an assistant professional type position, we are now seeing a much wider and more diverse set of roles.

There are trainees who are in positions as the general managers of facilities, sector development roles with districts, managing facilities such as retail stores and driving ranges and running their own businesses that are contributing to the industry in numerous ways.

The perception that trainees are just sellers of confectionery behind the counter is now long gone, with them being in incredibly high demand across the country. While the programme has now grown to have over 50 PGA trainees across the country, each year we have four or five positions that just never get filled.

Upon graduation from the academy into full membership, the demand for young, highly skilled and enthusiastic PGA professionals is just as strong.

Clubs that are in large urban cities are looking for innovative PGA professionals that can drive participation and help grow the golfing communities at the club, whereas clubs in the regions have demand for a dual type services role with the PGA professional needing the business acumen and facility management skills to assist in the running of the club.

If, as an organisation, we can assist in new professionals gaining the skills, knowledge and expertise to have a long a fruitful career in the industry, we know the industry will be a better place for it.

The graduating trainees for 2018 at Jacks Point in Queenstown. All now have full membership and are working in the golf industry.

The graduating trainees for 2018 at Jacks Point in Queenstown. All now have full membership and are working in the golf industry.