Labor issues take stage at GCSAA Conference and Trade Show

A two-hour Power Hour and GCSAA CEO session on consecutive days will address one of golf’s most consistently vexing issues.


Carol D. Rau speaking onstage
Carol Rau, a longtime career consultant and speaker for GCSAA, makes a point during a Power Hour on the importance of clear communication during the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in San Diego.Photo by Montana Pritchard

Carol Rau makes her living in the golf course management employment space, but even she plans to learn a little something during at least one of her four GCSAA Conference and Trade Show presentations.

Rau, a Certified Professional in Human Resources who has been a career consultant and speaker for GCSAA since 2005 — and who also authors a bimonthly Career column for GCM — is one-third of the panel presenting at the Power Hour “Labor Solutions Unveiled: Cutting-edge Approaches to Tackle Staffing Issues.”

“Hopefully, everybody in the room will learn together,” Rau says. “We’ve researched. We have ideas. But depending on where you are in the country, you can always learn about new, innovative ways to find employees.”

Rau and Bill Ackerley, executive director of the Western Washington GCSA and a former financial analyst with American Airlines who also served as co-president and COO of The Ackerley Group, will team up for the first half of the two-hour session, which runs 9-11 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 30, in room North 228AB. Lee Strutt, CGCS, MG, director of agronomy at Cabot Cape Breton, in Inverness, Nova Scotia, and 23-year GCSAA member, will present over the final hour.

Rau and Ackerley’s portion will concentrate on how to recruit and retain for success, Rau says.

First, Rau says, it’s important for folks looking for employees to know exactly what positions they’re trying to fill.

“Job descriptions,” she says. “Do you know what you’re hiring for? If you don’t, it might not match up with what you’re needing.”

They’ll also discuss where to find “diamonds in the rough.” Case in point: “Junior college,” Rau says. “That’s a great place to find people who are just figuring out what they want to do in life.”

The third part of the talk will deal with the actual interviewing and hiring process, then they’ll conclude with retention.

“That’s so important,” Rau says. “How do you build a culture that retains those employees so you don’t have as much turnover? You need to do anything you can to provide an environment where people want to work. It’s not just pay. A lot of times, that is what it is. You can only go to the GM so many times. Housing, continuing education, career guidance — those things can be huge. How can we create a place that keeps people longer? How can we generate an environment where people feel valued, where they’ll tell their friends, ‘You should work here.’ As we all know, that’s the best way to get a crew.”

Leann Cooper outdoors on a golf course speaking to golf course superintendents
Leann Cooper, GCSAA’s senior manager for First Green and workforce development, speaks during a First Green interactive field trip during the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Orlando.

But wait, there’s more

Conference and Trade Show attendees who want to explore labor options even more will get a chance the very next day at “GCSAA CEO Session: Addressing Labor Needs with Innovative Programming and Workforce Development Initiatives.”

That session — 11-11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, on the GCSAA Stage on the Trade Show floor — will be led by GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans. 

Panelists are Leann Cooper, GCSAA senior manager for First Green and workforce development; Alan Fitzgerald, CGCS, superintendent at Rehoboth Beach Country Club in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and 26-year association member; and Janemarie McCay, Albright College’s Total Experience Learning graduate teaching administrator (“She’s an instructor,” Cooper says, “who instructs the instructors.”)

Though the session will touch on many of GCSAA’s workforce development programs, it will concentrate primarily on youth outreach, Cooper says, and the hands-on First Green science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) program that positions golf courses as learning labs.

“We’re going to explain what First Green actually is, from the standpoint of an educator and superintendent — what did it mean to them personally,” Cooper says. “We view it as our long-term strategy for workforce development.”

Cooper says the panelists will focus on First Green, but they’ll also touch on other youth-oriented programs like the National FFA Organization and Jobs for America’s Graduates. 

“We’ll concentrate on non-traditional sources to help us expand out talent pipeline — bringing people into our talent pipeline to help fill future and immediate labor needs,” Cooper says.

Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s senior managing editor.