Training and skills must be positioned at the heart of future parks delivery if the service is to survive, delegates at last week's Green Skills seminar heard.
Leicester City Council head of parks and green spaces Richard Welburn said reskilling the workforce in line with the local government agenda was a priority.
"Traditional training in sports turf or tree and shrub maintenance will still be relevant but only managers who are tuned in to the language of localism and have realigned strategies will prepare their staff to respond positively to the changes," he added.
Welburn said the need to address the management and leadership skills gap was vital. "It will become more evident as we see many highly-skilled park managers leave the profession in the near future." There is little evidence to suggest the issue was being tackled, he pointed out.
Training providers would have to carry out a similar "stocktake and realignment" of content and relevance, Welburn added. "They should be entering into discussion with park service management," he told delegates.
"It is critical to develop collaborative working between employers, training providers and third-party agencies to ensure that the future training and skills offer is well structured, adequately resourced and relevant to the needs of the parks profession," added Welburn.
He said he expected the public parks sector to look increasingly towards short modular training courses delivered within authorities' own facilities.
Welburn stressed that with public sector contracts increasingly carried out by private sector firms it was vital for evidence of commitment to staff training to be embedded in the specification. Where savings were made by externalising contracts, managers had a duty to ensure standards did not fall, he added.
Ending on a call to action, Welburn said: "Doing what we have always done will not get us through the next few years but being creative and doing things differently may create the impetus we need."
GREEN SKILLS ACTION POINTS
- Make training relevant to new local government agenda.
- Address management and leadership skills gap.
- Include staff training commitments in parks service contracts.