17/01/2017

Service, Workshops and Evaluation

case-workshop11You’ve made the commitment to give TerraCottem a go. You’ve found funds in the budget and placed the order. And then you’re being booked into a how-to workshop and you wonder, what’s that all about and is it necessary?

“It was the first time we’d had training come with a pallet of product.” Michael Hamling, Manager Parks & Environmental Operations for the City of Gosnells, is talking about the order they placed roughly five years ago. “You couldn’t help be impressed by the way they backed up the product with the technical training; saying they wouldn’t supply unless we did the training.”

In the years since, Gosnells has had three more sessions to cater for staff turnover. And in Michael’s opinion it’s important. “We’ve three areas of operations – landscape design and construction, parks operations, and environmental operations. The 55 staff cover an area of close to 130 square kilometres, with 31 active reserves, 238 passive, 18 conservation areas and 40,000 street trees. The training we give our staff is based on the belief that a bit of knowledge for everyone goes a long way.”

In fact, training appears to be an integral part of optimising the council’s people resource. Whatever the training – machinery operations, asset data management, traffic management – the moment is maximised to help build connections between different teams, encourage networking and information sharing. “Working in a crew, it’s easy to become insular. The training sessions are a chance for people to come together and have a bit of a chat; then there aren’t issues when we need someone to move to another crew.”

The TerraCottem training slots right in, helping to achieve this, and give everyone the knowledge needed to make the most of the product. It takes half a day, and is a combination of white board time and a practical session. “Following the training they can go out straight away and know what they’re doing. And since the results are fairly immediate – they can see the quality of the plants – the TerraCottem is in the truck all the time. We never have to remind them to use it.”

What’s also good is the way the training sessions are geared to a range of existing skill levels. “We’ve general hands and qualified horticulturalists and the training puts it into context for everyone. They can see the relevance: those who’ve studied soils can see the science behind it; and the general hands know what the problems are and understand the logic of how it works.” The information is presented so that everyone comes away with something from one consistent message.

At another session run within the sister cities of Townsville and Thuringowa in Queensland, Project Officer Libby Guest gathered those people who’d need to know how best to use TerraCottem.

“I facilitate the Community Environment Fund, which helps local community groups with projects such as revegetation on public land – from riparian settings to coastal plantings into dunes, even planting into hideous clay.” Given that TerraCottem is used as part of the process, it made sense to hold a workshop. “Our aim was to get everyone in so that they could get a better idea of how to use the product properly. This is good stuff, but it’s not cheap, and from what the TerraCottem people had been saying to us, we had the sense that we were applying too much.”

Those who participated came not only from the Council, but included volunteers from Greencorp and Landcare Australia.

“I’d expected to learn about the product so the session was what I expected. But it was this and more. We were also given a good background on soil types and how the product responds to different soil conditions, something which was relevant especially since they’d done their homework and presented the information in the context of our local environment. The workshop certainly went well beyond the product.”

So at the end of the day, everyone knows what they’re working with and how best to get the most out of it. They’ve also had a nice little refresher course, not only of the basics everyone should know about what makes things grow, and what stops them, but also why they do what they do. Says TerraCottem’s Russell James, “Standing out the front at a workshop you can see that people appreciate that they are in a good industry. It’s also obvious that they care about what they do. And along the way, these workshops send a pretty clear message back, confirming that what they are doing is important.”