GMA’s ‘NextGen’ to inspire future workforce

To kick off #GroundsWeek 2024, the industry’s annual awareness week, the GMA has announced that its Young Board of Directors has been relaunched as the GMA’s ‘NextGen’.

The group of talented young grounds professionals will represent the grounds management industry, whilst acting as ambassadors for the GMA, in the association’s aim of encouraging more young people into grounds management.

Workforce development has become increasingly important over recent years, with research revealing that 20% of grounds staff could potentially leave the sector over coming years due to an ageing workforce, with two in five grounds professionals being over the age of 50.

Since this research was conducted, the GMA has invested funds into raising the profile of the sector through public-facing activities, like its #GroundsWeek and Back to Play campaigns, earning widespread media coverage from regional local radio to national media outlets, like BBC Sport and ITV News.

The association has also forged closer relationships with sport’s National Governing Bodies which recently included working with the FA and the Women’s Super League, alongside Women in Football and Arsenal FC, to make history with the first all-female grounds team to prepare a pitch in the WSL for the North London Derby.

Since this activity was started, there have been green shoots of optimism with research conducted by the GMA in 2023 showing that there has been an increase in the percentage of young people in the workforce, with under 35s now making up nearly 30% of the workforce compared to 19% in 2022. There has also been an increase in the number of grounds managers aged 24 and under, and an increase in the percentage of grounds managers stating that they became involved in grounds management due to apprenticeships, with the figure now being close to 20%.

Armed with four new members and a fresh rebrand, as well as the support by sponsor, Reesink Turfcare, the GMA’s NextGen will build on recent signs of optimism by targeting young people, including those still at school and those at the start of their careers.

The new look and feel of the group creates a fresh and youthful brand identity, giving it a ‘club’ aesthetic that will enable the group to grow by better resonating with its target demographic whilst still aligning closely with the GMA’s existing brand.

Their work begins on Tuesday 19th March, where new NextGen ambassador, Jack Langley will host a Schools into Stadia event at Ashton Gate. Over the day, a group of local secondary school children will get a taste of what it’s like to be a grounds person, as well as learning more about the wide range of careers that can be pursued in the grounds care sector.

Commenting on the new approach, GMA NextGen Executive Sponsor, Jennifer Carter is optimistic about the future: “#GroundsWeek is all about celebrating the grounds management industry and encouraging more people to consider joining. So, what better time is there to celebrate the achievements of a talented group of young people and to announce their renewed efforts to inspire other young people too?

“We’ve already seen what impact they can have on the sector, with three GMA NextGen ambassadors representing the industry during the recent women grounds showcase at the Emirates Stadium, and I’m confident that their fresh energy and focus will be highly impactful on the hearts and minds of other sport-loving young people.

“There are opportunities across the sector, both on the ground as well as in the businesses that support it, and we’re already seeing signs that recent years of hard work are starting to pay off. We as an industry need to keep up the momentum, and our NextGen ambassadors will play an important role in helping us drive this change.”

Longtime member of the group and currently acting as leader of the NextGen, Joe Broadwood is confident the new look and feel will resonate with its target audience: “The new name and brand will give our group its own strong identity that is stand-out and brings a youthful feel. Our industry is intrinsically connected to sport, so the ‘club-feel’ of the brand will help us appeal to younger people who share our passion for sport and are interested in pursuing a career close to sport.

“In looking to appeal to younger audiences, we hope this relaunch will better support us in our mission to inspire the next generation of grounds staff.”

#GroundsWeek runs from 18 – 24 March 2024. To find out more about the week and how you can support it, visit: thegma.org.uk/groundsweek.

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