Careers profile - Parks manager

Parks have become more of a focal point for local communities than ever before. For this reason, a parks manager is like the park's guardian.

Working with many partner organisations, they ensure that the park is being enjoyed safely, suitably and respectfully by many different groups and for a wide range of purposes. The parks manager must also work with external contractors, such as grounds maintenance teams, and other members of the community, such as friends groups, to oversee the upkeep and improvement of the park's horticulture and ecology.

What is best about being a parks manager?

For Windsor Great Park parks superintendent Tom Jarvis, the highlights include: "Having the opportunity to safeguard the management of a national treasure for future generations and the pleasure of seeing visitors and the public using and enjoying the space." Similarly, Kensington Gardens and Brompton Cemetery park manager Andy Williams says the best aspects of the role include: "The sense of achievement from managing world-class historic landscapes for current and future generations to enjoy."

What kind of skills, attributes, knowledge and experience do you feel are most in demand for this role in the recruitment market at the moment - and why?

Communication and diplomacy skills

City of London director of open spaces Colin Buttery says: "The traditional role has changed so much that the necessary skills are also different now. Communication is probably very high on the list but also diplomacy and the capability to negotiate because quite often there are very diverse groups of users of open spaces, so there will be activities that are popular with certain groups that are unpopular with others. The parks team is quite often caught in the middle and has to adjudicate. A capability to negotiate successful outcomes is really important." Williams notes that, in addition to a strong background in landscape management, he would be looking for someone who is good at building relationships. "My job involves working with a variety of stakeholders, from contractors and volunteers to external bodies, and these relationships are key to my role."

Managerial skills

Williams says: "The ability to motivate and inspire others and create a 'can-do' culture are important qualities for any manager, irrespective of sector." He also notes that project management skills are "a must" and, to a degree, event management.

Horticultural knowledge

Despite the fact that the role of parks manager has changed hugely over the past couple of decades - from a horticulture-based role to one that is more integrated with the local community - Buttery says the need for land management skills has "remained pretty consistent, so anyone managing the site has to have that knowledge or at least know how to acquire it from other members of the team". Williams adds: "Qualifications and experience in landscape management will always be a must." He also points out that candidates need an understanding of environmental best practice and biodiversity.

Financial awareness

Jarvis says parks managers should possess the ability to prioritise and have good financial awareness "to manage budgets to deliver the maximum in terms of standards and benefits for the public/visitors".

What sort of qualifications and experience would you need to see from a potential candidate to be convinced that they possess these qualities?

Buttery says parks managers would originally have come from traditional horticultural training, probably though an apprenticeship initially and then a higher-level qualification. "That route is still available to people but because the role has become more diverse parks managers now originate from a wider range of academic or practical backgrounds. I would still expect people to have a degree of experience in horticulture even if their background is not horticulture so that by the time they get to superintendent level, if their background is geography, they would still have a bit of experience in horticulture, arboriculture, dealing with volunteers, working with local communities, education, etc." Jarvis notes that potential candidates should have a good range of practical experience in a varied range of environments, backed up by a nationally recognised qualification. Candidates also need "a positive attitude and a genuine desire to work in the horticultural industry".

Are any of the skills that are in demand transferable from other horticulture roles?

"Of course," says Williams. "The horticulture sector has always provided opportunities for progression. This is why apprenticeships are crucial in building the next generation of managers." Jarvis points out that should someone switch from another area of the horticulture sector there may be some technical challenges "in terms of knowledge of specific areas of expertise, but attitude, a willingness to learn and adapt, and a genuine love of the environment are important". Buttery reveals that he has employed parks managers who come from many different backgrounds, including landscape architecture, floristry, interior landscaping, and production horticulture.

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