Golf Course Management

MAR 2019

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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M ichael Upchurch has no trouble filling out his golf course maintenance crews. He says maintenance staff turnover is not a problem, pays "about market average" for his labor and, in fact, says it has become increasingly easy the past couple of years to retain staff members. Heck, he even boasts a waiting list for seasonal workers. "I've done this 20 years," Upchurch says, "and I've never had an issue hiring people or keeping people." Upchurch, a Class A superintendent at nine-hole Hen - derson (Texas) Country Club and a 20-year member of GCSAA, is something of a unicorn — a mythical creature rumored to exist, but rarely, if ever, seen in the wild. e picture painted by the 2018 Labor Survey Report of GCSAA members is several degrees gloomier than that illustrated by Upchurch. e majority of respondents: • Either agreed or strongly agreed that staff turnover is a problem. • Said it was more difficult or much more difficult to re - tain employees on their maintenance staff over the past two years. • Described their local labor market in regard to hiring maintenance staff employees as bad or very bad. And an overwhelming 74 percent described the process of finding and hiring maintenance staff employees as dif - ficult or very difficult. Perhaps the most damning statistic, however, is this one: Asked in 2012 to describe the labor market, just 19 percent of respondents described it as bad or very bad; asked again in 2018, a whopping 63 percent used the same qualifiers. "Oh my gosh," exclaims sports economist Todd McFall, an assistant teaching professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. "at's surprising that it went up that much." Blue-collar workers scarce Don't misunderstand: McFall knows all about all the issues that have led the golf course maintenance industry to this point. And in that regard, golf courses aren't alone. Unemployment in 2012 was around 8 percent. Today, it's around 4 percent, so far fewer people are looking for work. And then there's this: According to a December 2018 analysis by e Conference Board, a nonprofit organiza - tion that studies the business climate in the United States, blue-collar workers are now scarcer in the U.S. than white- collar workers, reversing a decades-long trend. e group forecasts growing blue-collar labor shortages will continue in 2019 and beyond. e labor survey results reflect that reality. Asked which maintenance staff positions are most difficult to re - tain employees for, an overwhelming 74 percent said crew member/equipment operator. Assistant superintendent was a distant second at 19 percent. GCSAA survey shows courses big and small and at all the compass points are struggling to fill their maintenance staffs. Andrew Hartsock Editor's note: This story is the first in a series of stories in 2019 on the labor shortages facing the golf course management industry.

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