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Sports, Leisure & Green Space

The best sportsman need the best turf to play on, and it takes the top science, muscle and machinery to keep it playing well. Green spaces are everywhere from town squares and parks to golf courses and hospitals and they offer fitness, beauty, health and variety. Our parks and public gardens are the green lungs for our cities, and you could help create and manage them for thousands of people to enjoy.

Arboriculturist/Tree surgeon

What they do: Arboriculture means working with trees. At the craft level there is work in controlling or removing trees, including pruning and felling. At the technical level, staff can work as inspectors, ensuring that trees are safe, or as supervisors, sending out teams of workers and ensuring that the jobs are done properly. There are also jobs in management and consultancy.

Career path: Many people still get into the profession by starting with physical labouring and working their way up. Beginners will often take short courses, usually an NPTC course, in chainsaw use, tree climbing or aerial rescue. The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) Certificate of Arboriculture is a Level 2 course which several colleges offer over six months. This can be followed by the Technician’s Certificate in Arboriculture.

Specialist tree surgery courses are offered by a range of colleges. In addition, many amenity horticulture courses include tree surgery as part of the syllabus. The specialised practical skills of arboriculture are offered as packaged courses of three years for the National Diploma (BTEC), and one year NCH (Arboriculture). The Royal Horticultural Society runs a one-year special option on arboriculture with estate management.

Where they work: Most people in the industry work for small firms, which generally lop and top trees in private gardens. A lot of arborist firms are also employed by a handful of big grounds care and tree work contractors such as Glendale or Gristwood & Toms. These firms will work for local authorities, often taking over the management of the entire tree stock.

They may also do work for private firms and public bodies such as the Highways Agency or Network Rail. Some local authorities still employ their own staff and some large private estates employ their own tree workers. Gardens such as Kew Gardens and the Royal Horticultural Society employ arboriculturists.

More info: The Arborticultural Association

More information about apprenticeships.

Related job titles: Arborist, Arboriculturist, Tree Climber, Arboricultural Officer/Assistant/Operative/Technician, Tree Officer, Tree Inspector, Arboricultural Surveyor, Tree Preservation Order Officer

Greenkeeper / Groundsman / Sports Turf Manager

What they do: Think of all the sports that are played on grass, football, cricket, golf, horse-racing, tennis, hockey and rugby, and you’ll realise the importance of the highly skilled sports turf specialists who keep the grass in peak form. If your interests combine a love of sport with an interest in horticulture, then a career in sports turf management could be right up your street.

Career path: Grounds staff require a broad knowledge, ranging from sports turf construction and maintenance, through natural turf and general plant growth expertise to maintaining artificial surfaces.

Straight from school, keen students can get a position with a club and embark on weekly one day or block release college courses aiming for National/Scottish Vocational Qualifications (NVQ/SVQ) in sports turf.

The qualifications for groundsmen and greenkeepers start with a basic First Diploma for school-leavers, through N/SVQs (Levels 2,3 and 4) and the Higher National Diploma, to a Foundation Degree in golf and sports turf management, and a National Diploma in sports turf and amenity horticulture. There is also a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in sports turf.

Trained groundsmen and greenkeepers can switch to other jobs within the industry for example, working for companies that supply products and services to sport. Most sales and technical advisers with large seed, turf and sports product companies started their careers as groundsmen and greenkeepers.

Where they work: All the professional sporting venues have their own sports turf managers, advisors and assistants working to keep the turf in top condition. Local authorities need people to care for parks, gardens and play areas, including artificial surfaces. There are also openings in schools, colleges and universities, where groundsmen look after all the sport facilities and the surroundings, including the trees, lawns and gardens.

More info: British International Golf Greenkeepers AssociationInstitute of Groundsmanship 

Related job titles: Sports Turf Management and Maintenance, Sports Turf Specialist, School Facility Management (sports and other areas)


Interior Landscape Designer

What they do: Even the smallest office space can be livened up by living plants. A developing market exists for indoor plants that brighten surroundings and generally improve the quality of life, served by interior landscapers. They bring colour and greenery indoors by designing indoor planting schemes in offices, atriums, shopping centres, restaurants and health clubs. Studies have shown the importance of having living plants in the office and their effect on staff productivity in the workplace and bringing horticulture into the home improves overall health and wellbeing.

Career path: Qualifications range from NVQs to MAs in interior landscaping.

Where they work: Within private interior landscaping or landscape maintenance firms, including franchise opportunities.

More info: European Federation of Interior Landscape GroupUrban Planters

Landscape Contractor

What they do: Landscape contractors enjoy nothing more than transforming design ideas and scruffy building sites into havens of natural beauty. Practical skills enable them to build paths and ponds, sculpt earth contours and tend plants.

Career path: GCSEs in subjects like geography, biology and arts subjects can open up landscape construction, leading you from worker to craftsperson and then foreperson. Many firms offer modern apprenticeships combining formal diplomas like National Vocational Qualifications with personal skills training in teamwork, problem solving, communication and IT.

Where they work: Opportunities range from self-employed landscapers working with garden designers to create beautiful back gardens, to contractors working for massive landscaping firms undertaking big public or private sector projects. These could include anything from renovating the open spaces in city centres, to landscaping the features of a new business park.

More info:  British Association of Landscape Industries

More information about horticultural apprenticeships.

Related job titles: Landscaper, Landscape Manager, Landscape Foreman, Landscape Contract Manager.

Graveyard/Cemetery Keeper

What they do: Plants and flowers can transform cemeteries from bleak graveyards into memorial gardens. Cemetery keepers maintain these public spaces, making sure they remain places where visitors can experience a sense of peace in a beautiful and serene setting.

Career path: As with gardeners and grounds maintenance contractors, cemetery keepers need good practical horticultural skills, from planting to tree maintenance and grass-cutting.

Where they work: Many local authorities employ cemetery keepers who work within or alongside the parks and open spaces departments. At an international level, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission manages over 1,750 acres of ground around the world which is given over to fine horticulture, making maintenance a year-round task for its 900 gardeners.

More info: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Parks Policy & Development Officer

What they do: Working within local authorities’ parks and green spaces departments, parks policy and development officers help to create the plans and strategies to maintain and improve public open spaces in their area. Included in their responsibilities are tasks such as undertaking surveys of park use to help in the understanding of what the public needs from its parks. As well as spotting and organising any development or repair work that needs doing while promoting the parks to the public.

Career path: Horticultural qualifications are needed for this role, such as an HND or equivalent in horticulture, grounds maintenance, landscape management, management or business studies.

Practical experience of managing contracts and budgets may also be required.

Where they work: Local authority parks and open spaces departments

More info: CABE Horticulture Week , ISPAL (The Institute for Sport, Parks and Leisure)

Park Ranger

What they do: In recent years, fears about safety within parks have resulted in many councils introducing their own park ranger service to patrol the parks within their region. Park rangers are expected to provide a uniformed presence around the parks to discourage anti-social behaviour and enforce local bylaws. In addition, they may be involved with

  • Taking guided walks within the parks
  • Providing information to park visitors
  • Liaising with local community groups and other like-minded bodies to help address issues and potential problems as they arise
  • Undertaking mobile patrols of smaller locations and cemeteries providing a safe environment for visitors

Career path: See Parks, Gardens & Green Space Officer

Where they work: Patrolling parks and open spaces run by local authorities

Related job titles: Park Keeper/Warden, Park Development Officer