Can job fairs help solve labor needs?

Seminole Legacy Golf Club uses high school and college hiring events to recruit staff


Aerial view of Ghost Creek golf course
Staff members at Seminole Legacy Golf Club in Tallahassee, Fla. Many of the course's part-time staff are high school and college students, who discover a passion for golf course maintenance as a result of their experience. Photos courtesy of Thomas DeProspero

Every golf course Superintendent has dealt with a shortage of labor at some point in their career. I hear too often from superintendents that they can’t find the labor to fill in important roles and accomplish everyday tasks.  Seminole Legacy Golf Club in Tallahassee, Fla., where I am the assistant superintendent, is home to Seminole Legacy Golf Course, the home course for the FSU Men’s and Women’s golf team. We hold several Junior and NCAA tournaments each year, so we need a big staff to keep tournament conditions all year-round.

In my experience, posting job opportunities online brings little to no success. When you are battling pay rates with the clubs next door, how can you attract quality employees to come work for you?

At Seminole Legacy Golf Club, Heath Booker, the head course superintendent and 16-year GCSAA member, and I have found a solution to reach out to more people for jobs: career fairs. We have had booths at local high schools that proved to be extremely beneficial. Our displays included items like flag sticks, cup cutters and golf clubs to help give students some idea of what we do as superintendents and agronomists. Heath also spoke to some classes about the industry, and we’ve learned that just the engagement between you and the students makes an impression. After our first high school appearance, we gained about five new employees that same month.

One of the biggest hurdles to clear is educating people on the career of a golf course superintendent and what golf course maintenance crews accomplish on a day-to-day basis. It is amazing how little people know! Since I’ve become an assistant, I’ve always thought it was my job to spread the word about this industry and help young people find a career they love doing. I push to recruit high school and college students toward the agronomy side of the industry because I know how enjoyable and rewarding it is. I am 21 years old, and I’m lucky to have found a career early on and one that I love. I have passion for my job, and I know there are many other kids out there who can benefit from finding a path in this industry at a young age.

High school and college students aren’t typically who you think about when you’re looking for more labor on the course. That’s not the case at Seminole Legacy; 80% of our maintenance staff are in college and high school, and most are part-time employees. We’ve got about 15 employees on staff per day. In total, our team consists of just over 30 employees. The amount of staff members does fluctuate quite a bit between semesters and during summertime. When summer hits, we aim more for high school students to come help. During the school year, there are plenty of college students available.

Right now, we have six high school students on our staff working part-time. Three more will be coming on staff once summer starts. Since we are a university owned golf course and the property is a part of the FSU campus, there are many FSU students who want a job with us in exchange for free golf and their early afternoons off. We are fortunate to say that we’ve got around 20 FSU students working on the maintenance staff. About 15 of them are part-time employees working around their school schedules.

Aerial view of Ghost Creek golf course
Seminole Legacy Golf Club employees rake bunkers. Several of the club's student employees have considered switching majors to study turf after working at the club.

Numerous students on our staff have thought about switching majors to study turf because of their experiences with us. Five of our student employees have transferred to a turfgrass degree, including myself. If kids received information about the industry earlier, then it would produce many more students interested in careers on a golf course. Most people  — and especially students — who golf every day don’t know what goes on behind the scene.It is our job as superintendents and assistants to teach younger generations about what we do, and how much opportunity there is to advance in this career.

If golf course managers and superintendents aren’t making their way out to schools and career fairs, not only will their labor woes continue, but the future of golf course maintenance will also suffer without the push for younger employees to pick up the torch. It is extremely important to show people what we do and how we do it. College students don’t know what to do with their lives yet; they are begging for opportunities and ideas of how to develop their careers. I have heard from several of our student employees that this is the perfect college job, not just because it works so well with their school schedule, but because they get to work outside with their buddies in a great environment and get off work every day around 2:30 to have the rest of the day to themselves. To top it off, they get to play golf for free.

This isn’t just about finding more labor for the summertime. It’s about the younger generation of golf course agronomists and the future of this industry. So I encourage you to get out to your local schools and career fairs and start telling your story.

Thomas DeProspero is the assistant superintendent at Seminole Legacy Golf Club in Tallahassee, Fla.