Fred Gehrisch has always been more about finding solutions than stewing over problems.
When others began to find it difficult to attract assistants, interns and seasonal help, Gehrisch took a different approach, focusing on his recruiting efforts to ensure new hires got the most out of their time at Highland Falls Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina. He tailored job listings to communicate what applicants would get from the experience, rather than what was expected of them.
"A lot of the ads I read all sound the same," Gehrisch told TurfNet in 2016. "They're cookie-cutter: 'Here is the job, here is the course. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.' Hiring an assistant is a sales job in two directions. They have to sell themselves to you, but by God, you better be selling what you have to them. You have to prove that you are just as worthy of their investment in your club. Tell them what you are going to do for them. Tell them that you are going to teach them to be a golf course manager, that you are going to teach them to be a leader. Tell them you are going to take them to trade shows and teach them the business of golf course management. Tell them the club is going to invest in them and their future."
In the post-pandemic golf economy, in which most courses have a surplus of players on the golf course and a shortage of workers managing it, Gehrisch again is seeking new and better ways to find employees.
Highland Falls is in the early stages of working with state and local officials on ways to find and attract potential employees who might be seeking to learn a trade but have no idea work on a golf course is even a career option.
Those efforts include working with the North Carolina State Board of Education on implementing a registered apprenticeship program, and a Workforce Development Board program designed to retrain people who have fallen out of the labor force for a variety of reasons.
He also is working with local schools to offer field days in hopes of making kids aware that there are careers in golf.
"Most people don't even know they can do this for a living," Gehrisch said.
The apprenticeship program, run in cooperation with the state's public schools system, is targeted toward those who will not attend college, but still need to learn a trade. It offers a mix of on-the-job training and classroom curriculum.
The state's Workforce Development Board, which falls under the North Carolina Department of Commerce umbrella, seeks to train those dropouts, veterans, those with addiction problems or have had any other employment issues.
"When it comes to finding employees, I can't look my board in the eye and say I've tried everything I could to solve this problem if I didn't really try everything," Gehrisch said. "So, we're going to try it."
Highland Falls is not immune to many of the labor issues that plague other golf courses. Located in a remote area of North Carolina, the city of Highlands is an isolated upscale community, and most employees at the club cannot afford to live there, so they have to commute from a long way away. With one K-12 school in the local community, there is not a large local pool of potential workers from which to draw.
To solve the housing challenges that so many clubs encounter, Highland Falls offers on-site housing for up to 15 employees and has secured apartments in town for another 10 workers. A renovation project will increase the number of beds for on-site housing.
"The problem for superintendents is we are used to seeing inputs into a problem and seeing an immediate result," Gehrisch said. "(Finding workers) is not like that. We have to be patient.
"We have to be proactive in letting kids know we are here and you can do this for a living."