Training for a Brighter Future by Ian Sumpter

Ian Sumpter explores the critical role that training plays in the land-based sector, and how it can heighten profitability, productivity and staff morale. 


Landbased Machinery Training

Training should be seen by managers as ‘staff development’ which can in turn improve results and profitability. It has been the bane of my career to be able to demonstrate that training is in fact a contributing factor to increased productivity and improved profits. How do you show with facts and figures how, well trained and motivated staff can impact the profitability of a business?


Train the trainer course at the Belfry, Sutton Coldfield

Train the trainer course at the Belfry Golf Course in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands.


What sort of training is required?

Once it has been established that training is an important part of the profitability, quality and staff well being it is important to know what sort of training is required. Forward thinking managers will see the benefits of staff training and a structured training plan. This can help plan future training, help to create a realistic budget and minimise the impact of losing skilled staff. It is understood in the landbased skills industry, certain training is a requirement; manual handling, pesticide application, chainsaw and machinery use are some examples. Regarding machinery operation, the regulations cover many aspects of managing the safe use of work equipment. For instance, they require the selection of suitable equipment for the job, maintenance, inspection, adequate information and training for operators.


Training of workers

The employer shall take measures necessary to ensure that: Workers given the task of using work equipment receive adequate training, including training on any risks, such use may entail and workers receive adequate specific training.


Risk assessment of slopes in Hockley Golf Club, Winchester

Risk assessment of slopes at Hockley Golf Club, Winchester.


Work equipment involving specific risks

When the use of work equipment is likely to involve a specific risk to the safety or health of workers, the employer shall take the measures necessary to ensure that:

(a) The use of work equipment is restricted to those persons given the task of using it;

(b) In the case of repairs, modifications, maintenance or servicing, the workers concerned are specifically designated to carry out such work.

This aspect has been unchanged since the 1992 PUWER regulations were introduced. However we did see some changes to the Provisional Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER 98) with the introduction of some hardware requirements, such as protecting against the risk from mobile equipment rolling over or overturning by (for instance) the provision of rollover protective structures.


In the landbased skills sector we should ensure that self-propelled work equipment, including any attachments or towed equipment, is only driven by workers who have received appropriate training in the safe driving of such work equipment.' The most common question I get as a training consultant is; what is ‘appropriate’ training and ‘who’ can provide the training?

Employers will need to establish what machine is appropriate for the task and what training is required in each particular circumstance. For some training (so long as training is provided competently and to the standard necessary to ensure health and safety), there is no bar to training being given by competent in-house staff. In these cases, it is desirable that those providing the training have some skill and aptitude to undertake training, with sufficient industrial experience and knowledge of the working environment to put their instruction in context. They should also have the ability to assess the skills attained by the person they are instructing. The degree of skill, knowledge and competence to do so will depend on many factors, including the nature of the work equipment and the risks it poses.


Operator training in Ireland

Operator training in Ireland


With any option, the main consideration will be the training standard should be adequate in ensuring the health and safety of your workers and any people who may be affected by the work, so far as reasonably practicable. I always remind people there is the minimum standard expected as a starting point but it is always recommended to aim higher as good working practice.



We are currently seeing apprenticeships go through national reform and the introduction of trailblazer apprenticeships. A trailblazer apprenticeship is made up of a group of employers who work together to design new apprenticeship standards for occupations within their sectors. This means that employers are now at the forefront of the development of apprenticeships and learning; creating people with workplace skills that are relevant to business and industry. The new apprenticeships standards describe the level of knowledge, skill, and behaviours required to do a particular role well. All standards have to relate to a specific role or occupation, and provide a pathway to a career within the sector.

Apprenticeship training helps increase skills in the organisation, which will subsequently benefit the company in the long term. Apprenticeships also ensure that the skills developed are matched to the company’s future needs. This will help fill any skills gaps and allow the business to source future managers and leaders from within the organisation. Either a new member of the team can be employed as an apprentice or an existing employee could undertake an apprenticeship to to further their career and improve their skills.



Apprentices play a crucial role for land-based businesses, and the new trailblazer apprenticeships reflect the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for a particular role.


As of April 2017 employers have to pay an apprenticeship levy if they:

  • Have an annual pay bill of more than £3 million
  • Are connected to other companies or charities for Employment Allowance which in total have an annual pay bill of more than £3 million.


The levy is 0.5% of the annual pay bill. All employers will receive a £15,000 annual allowance, to be offset against the bill. This effectively means that employers with an annual pay bill of £3m or less pay no levy.

If you are an employer who does not pay the apprenticeship levy as your annual pay bill is under the threshold funding will still be available for you. From May 2017 employers not paying the levy, who offer apprenticeships to 16 to 18 year olds, will receive 100% of the cost of the training from the Government, up to the maximum funding bands. Employers will have to pay 10 per cent of the cost of the apprenticeship training for those aged 19 and over and the Government will pay the remaining 90 per cent, up to the maximum funding bands. This support applies to all age groups. For non-levy businesses with less than 50 employees there will also be a new £1000 incentive towards apprenticeships for taking on someone aged 16 to18

The government website on funding has some useful information on the apprenticeship levy.

Having worked with and managed apprentices, I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting the challenges required and found the whole process very rewarding. Supporting apprentices today gives us the workforce we want for the future. 


Ian Sumpter has worked in the amenity horticulture sector for more than 30 years. He now works as a freelance training consultant - both advising on and delivering training. He is on the executive committee of the Institute of Agricultural Engineers as a trustee and is actively involved in developing the industry. 


At Lantra, we believe training should be about inspiring and motivating people, giving them usable skills and boosting their confidence. For companies wishing to enhance their in-house training capabilities, Lantra offers a popular five day training course in teaching and instruction. Discover more and find your local training provider.


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