National Apprenticeship Week 2023: Apprenticeships in Grounds Management

Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly popular within the turf care sector among those looking to ‘learn and earn’ within their working environment as well as among employers looking to build better trained and more experienced teams.

For National Apprenticeship Week, we spoke to educators and employers to understand the value of apprenticeships in the sports turf and grounds care sector and why apprenticeships are a viable option as a route into the sector for people looking for a first job.

Warren Scott, Senior Grounds Manager at Liverpool Football Club, started his career at the iconic club as an apprentice and is a strong believer in building a team around apprentices. After 23 years at the club, Warren now oversees 25 staff across multiple sites including Anfield Stadium, the AXA Training Centre and the Reds Academy at Kirkby, with apprentices playing an important role across all of them:

“Over recent years, we’ve been seeing an increase in job vacancies across the grounds care sector, and, through this trend, the importance of apprenticeships is becoming more apparent.

Apprenticeships offer a number of benefits to employers, whether they’re a club in the Premier League or your local non-league side. At Liverpool FC, we’ve found one of their main benefits is that you have the ability to adapt training to develop skills in new employees that are more relevant to the team’s and business’ needs.

Hiring apprentices also allows us to expand and upskill our current and future workforce through providing a learning structure, and valuable work experience, that can nurture skills and foster future business managers and leaders.

Within the grounds team here at Liverpool FC, we’ve had a number of key staff members join as apprentices before progressing up the ladder to supervisor and management roles. This highlights that, with the proper training, apprentices can be a valuable asset to any business or organisation in the industry.

Looking back at my career at LFC, apprentices have always been an important part of the grounds team. I joined the club as an apprentice in 1999 and have now worked my way up to my position now, as Senior Grounds Manager. I like to think that my experience alone shows that apprenticeships can provide a ladder to success, and career progression, within the grounds care industry.”

Looking at apprenticeships from an educator’s perspective, Chris Hunter, Regional Pitch Advisor in the Pitch Advisory Service at the GMA, believes that apprenticeships offer as many benefits to employers as they do prospective apprentices, especially with regards to building a pipeline of experienced and loyal talent for the future. Prior to joining the GMA, Chris spent three years working closely with apprentices in the grounds care sector as a tutor on the Level 2 and Level 3 Sports Turf Apprenticeships at Askham Bryan College:

“The perception around apprenticeships in the grounds care sector has certainly changed over recent years and now, due to the extensive hands-on experience they earn and value they offer after their apprenticeship has finished.

With them being open to all ages and levels, apprenticeships offer more opportunities for people to get experience in new industries and I’d even go as far as to say that, with such a demand for young people to join the sector, there’s never been a better time for young people, or even people seeking a career change, to consider apprenticeships in the grounds care industry.

At the same time, apprenticeships can also be hugely beneficial to employers. For starters, apprenticeships can help teams secure an experienced and loyal pipeline of talent for years to come – essentially setting up the team for the future.  At the same time for clubs, apprenticeships provide opportunities for the local community. Every apprentice hired who comes from your local area can be seen as an investment by you into the local community. You also benefit from any community spirit or loyalty they bring to the club.

At the end of the day, everyone who works in this sector started off without any experience and in need of training. So why not give back to the sector by supporting others the way that you wish you’d been supported? If you want to ensure that the industry has a pipeline of talent and expertise joining the sector over years to come, then we all need to make sure that we’re looking after new employees and training them in the skills you want them to have. Apprenticeships offer the best way to do so.”

Neil Cain started his career in horticulture as an apprentice at Sunderland Parks Department before, decades later, winning Apprentice Champion of the Year at the National Apprenticeship Awards. His journey from apprentice to earning his City Guilds Horticulture and Management qualifications, studying at Durham Horticultural College and Sunderland University, and Apprentice Champion is testament to his belief in the benefit that apprenticeships offer the grounds care sector.

“Over my career from an apprentice to Operations Director, I’ve learned that you never stop learning – in a way, we’re apprentices until the day we retire. This is what apprenticeships are all about – continual learning and development.

I remember the advice I received from my grandfather, and fellow horticulturalist, the day before I started my apprenticeship in July 1980. He said, “The day you think you know everything in your industry will be the day you are finished.”

At the time I didn't fully understand his advice, but within weeks of starting my apprenticeship, the penny dropped - every day you walk into the workplace is another opportunity to learn and develop. The desire to learn is instilled through apprenticeships and continues well into your career – it’s what makes apprenticeships so valuable.”

With the theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2023 being ‘Skills for Life’, Geoff Webb, CEO of the GMA is keen on encouraging more employers in the grounds care sector to hire apprentices:

“Whether you work in professional sport or at a grounds care businesses, the benefits of apprenticeships across the industry are clear to see. The theme of ‘Skills for Life’ is fitting because, as Warren and Neil show, the skills they learned as apprentices have helped them lead excellent careers in their respective fields.

We know that one in five grounds managers will be leaving the profession in the next 10 years and that the grounds care industry is ageing, with many close to retirement and 40% of the workforce being over the age of 50. Apprenticeships can help introduce the next generation of grounds people into the sector and ensure we have a pipeline of talent entering the industry for years to come.

The benefits of hiring apprentices have never been clearer, especially with the funding available from Government to develop apprenticeship schemes. That’s why we’re encouraging clubs and other grounds care organisations to make 2023 the year they introduce more apprentices to the incredible career opportunities on offer in our sector.”

For more information on apprenticeships, visit:

To speak with the GMA Learning team about apprenticeships, contact: