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Industry-wide concern over staff shortage

29 July 2015

Nicholls said: “We can put an advert in the Racing Post on a weekend and you would be lucky if you get a phone call – it’s an industry-wide concern.”In similar vein, Newmarket trainer Ed Walker said: “It’s well known there is a massive shortage of stable staff across Britain.”The Racing Post has under taken a special report for Thursday’s paper into a problem acknowledged across the industry from the BHA to t he National Association of Stable Staff (Nass),which has named in adequate pay and unattractive working conditions as barriers to attracting potential new recruits.

Many point to the government’s stricter immigration policy leaving trainers unable to recruit from outside the EU under the points-based system, downgrading the skill levels required to be a work-rider or stable staff.That has hit the main training centres where many overseas staff congregated, although those in Flat yards tended to leave through the winter months.Workers from India, Pakistan and Brazil were often skilled riders and of the right weight,while British statistics confirm only a tiny proportion of the population weighs under 9 st. 

The BHA has budgeted only£43,000 a year for recruitment,while having a key target in its strategy for growth to have another 1,000 horses in training by 2020.The governing body accepts this cannot be achieved with out enough stable staff and has established the Participant Welfare And Training Pillar led by the BHA’s director of people and development Carole Goldsmith, who was appointed in November last year . BHA media manager Robin Mounsey said: “ This is an important issue for the sport. 

In terms of staff numbers there is a definite requirement for skilled staff, in particular riders, to be available in greater numbers than currently and therefore we, as an industry, need to explore all avenues for recruiting the right people into racing. It is undoubtedly one of the main challenges we face and hence there as on the industry has come to get her to establish the Participant Welfare And Training Pillar.“For too long we have perhaps relied on a new stream of foreign workers, many of whom can no longer work here under tightened immigration policies. 

We need to work on a sustainable solution for the longer term.”Offering what is viewed as one potential solution, National Trainers Federation chief executive Rupert Arnold said:“We’re looking at different pools of people we might recruit from – one interesting one has been people who are leaving the military. They might not have horse experience but have a lot of attributes that are useful to trainers.”Dan Skelton, a former assistant to Nicholls who has rapidly made his name as a trainer with 73 winners in his second season,believes the industry needs to launch a strong recruitment drive to get more people interested.

“A lot of money has been spent to get people through the race course gates and now racing needs to address this problem area,” he said.The trainer has taken on two new members of staff in his expanding operation, but admits:“It’s not as easy to find staff as it was four or five years ago.“It’s not time to panic but it’s proving more difficult than everyone in the industry would like. There is a hole that needs to be filled and it’s taking longer than everyone hoped.”William Haggas added: “There are a lack of the skilled workers trainers need and they are increasingly hard to find and recruit since the block on labour from outside the EU.”To understand the scale of the issue the NTF surveyed member sat the end of May, with there search identifying there are 500 unfilled vacancies from a work force that in 2013 numbered  6,692

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