Employing an Apprentice Groom – Grooms of the Future Part 1
It’s reasonable to conclude the pool of experienced grooms wanting to remain working with horses and available to us is diminishing as the years pass. There are also many other now, well documented reasons to add to this natural order of things all of which exacerbates this shrinkage.
For everyone who isn’t employing Peter Pan, we need to do more now within our industry to harness the alternative, emerging source of Grooms/Riders for the future. Working together, to validate becoming a groom as a credible and constructive career choice, we can make the future brighter for ourselves, our yards, our horses and of course future generations of equestrians.
Trainee grooms, including apprentices, are a lifeblood of our industry and the ins and outs of employing them needs much more consideration than they currently get – the yard junior, the trainee and of course the official and safeguarded version of the working pupil, the apprentice groom, are the future. What we all invest today could reverse the sometimes depressing current trends in the industry for tomorrow.
Like a lot of regulated things these days, covering all angles, by necessity, does seem to present a final framework that is somewhat convoluted and mind-boggling. The hoops you have to apparently jump through can leave one open-mouthed and often we are just too busy to untangle this information.
I have asked Kelly Wallace Horne, who has extensive equestrian experience, her own digital marketing business and a mind for disentanglement, to intensively research this subject via the proper channels, to distil the nuts and bolts of the information you need, into a definitive user-friendly guide to employing an Apprentice Groom.
If you are sitting comfortably with a large glass/cup of whatever keeps you awake and concentrating, please do read on. We hope you will be glad you did and that you will share this info to anyone you think might benefit from it – OUR EQUESTRIAN INDUSTRY DESPERATELY NEEDS PEOPLE LIKE YOU!
A basic guide to employing an apprentice groom
by Kelly Wallace Horne
Over the last year vacancies for apprentices have risen by 15% across the UK. Gaining qualifications whilst gaining paid working experience simultaneously is an agreeable arrangement for learners and employers alike. Equine apprenticeships offer an almost perfect arrangement for both the employer and the learner – rather than take years for a learner to gain knowledge, qualifications and then paid working experience, learners can achieve all these simultaneously, and are available to employers willing to invest, right now! Student grooms can learn the ropes directly within a fully functioning livery, eventing, dressage, racing yard, stud etc. and learn from the very people who would employ them postgraduation, giving young, less experienced grooms, and those wishing to gain a formal equine qualification the perfect foundation for a successful career within the equine industry.
Building the equine industry of tomorrow, today!
In our article How to Recruit an Everyday Super Groom in 2018 Caroline draws upon her experience as a specialist equine recruiter to advise equine employers on the rudiments of finding and employing a good groom, and in doing so she outlines the type of groom every employer wants to find and keep. One of the key points is finding a groom with the skills and experience relevant to the job being applied for. The majority of equine employers will agree that finding grooms that meet all of the criteria Caroline lays out is becoming increasingly difficult as the years pass but what are we, as employers and recruiters, doing to proactively address this situation?
The bottom line is, unless employers give inexperienced grooms the opportunity to learn, and grow their equine career, the equine industry will inevitably struggle more and more as the years pass. Employing apprentice grooms is probably a key factor in keeping the cogwheels of the equine industry turning for years to come.
Is employing an apprentice groom right for my yard?
In order to answer this question, we must first separate truth from perception regarding the employment of apprentice grooms. Caroline reports that currently, employers seem to fall into a few categories:
- Employers who see the potential in apprentice grooms and embrace the opportunity and prospects they present.
- Employers who don’t understand the benefits of employing an apprentice groom or who are put off by the apparent red tape and bureaucracy that surrounds their employment.
- Employers with an equestrian establishment in which an apprentice groom isn’t a practical or appropriate option.
- Employers who see an Apprentice/Working Pupil/Trainee Groom/Junior Groom as a source of cheap labour – whilst this may appear to achieve an immediate solution, sooner or later these employers will come unstuck, and they really do nothing to enhance the prospects of grooms and the equine industry for the future!
Before deciding for or against employing an apprentice groom we strongly advise you to read this overview and think about the benefits to both your yard and the future of the equine industry as a whole.
Equine Apprenticeships in a nutshell
An employee of any age can apply for and be employed as an apprentice groom.*
- The apprentice groom can already have paid experience as a groom, and they aren’t necessarily school-leavers or inexperienced with horses.*
- An existing member of staff can become your apprentice if they wish to gain a formal qualification via an apprenticeship.
- Apprenticeship courses are supported/provided by training organisations, such as a local college or a specialist equine training provider.*
- The employer must arrange and provide the apprenticeship course for prospective apprentices to apply for. This is arranged via the training organisation (e.g. a local college or training provider.)*
- Apprenticeships require funding, which is provided by the Government and paid directly to the training organisation (conditions apply – please read on…).*
- The employer must organise all funding for the apprenticeship course, not the apprentice. This is arranged via the training organisation.*
- Equine apprenticeships usually consist of 2 or 3 levels.
- Employers can offer/learners can choose a variety of courses, riding or non-riding, from Horse Care to Veterinary Care to an Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence and others in between.
- Apprenticeship courses usually take around 12-24 months to complete.
- “Apprentice” is an official employment status.*
- The National Minimum Wage rates include an hourly wage for apprentices (conditions apply – please read on…)
- Employers are not liable for NI contributions whilst the employed apprentice is under 25 years of age.*
- Apprentices can live in or live out, just like any other equine groom.
*As advised by the National Apprentice Service
OK, so apprentice grooms aren’t all school-leavers or inexperienced with horses, and apprenticeships are a pretty good thing for everyone, but before heading off to arrange to take on an apprentice it’s a very good idea to make sure you are well informed of the finer details – of which there are a few!
Article continues below…
Employing an Apprentice Groom – the finer details
As with any employed status, you must adhere to strict regulations when it comes to employing, paying and providing learning opportunities to your apprentice groom. There is no concise way of even outlining them, but I will try!
Paying your Apprentice Groom
1. The National Minimum Wage for an Apprentice is £3.70 an hour.
2. The National Minimum Wage for Apprentices doesn’t apply to Apprentices aged 19yrs or more in their second year of an Apprenticeship. Apprentices aged 19yrs or more in their second year must receive the age-related National Minimum Wage not the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices. As soon as a second-year Apprentice turns 19 years old you must adjust their salary accordingly.
3. The employer must pay the Apprentice for learning hours as well as working hours, whether on the yard or at a college.
4. Apprentices are subject to The Working Time Regulations 1998 the same as any other employee. By law, an apprentice aged 16-17 years old can only work up to 40 hours a week over a 5-day week and the apprentice must have 2 consecutive days off. An apprentice over 18 years of age will usually work a minimum of 30 hours a week but to the strict maximum of 48 hours a week – including overtime. Days off do not need to be consecutive.
5. The National Minimum Wage for Apprentices only applies from the official start date of the agreed Apprenticeship course. If an Apprentice Groom starts working for you before the start date of the official apprenticeship course you must pay them the appropriate age-related National Minimum Wage for this time, not the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices.
6. As with any other employee in the equine industry, the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices must be paid in addition to livery for their own horse, riding lessons etc. The only legal deduction made is the Accommodation Offset Rate set by the Government (£7 per day / £49 a week). Any other agreements “thrown in” must never be used to make up a salary package to meet the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices, they must be provided in addition to this hourly wage.
7. Employers are not liable for National Insurance Contributions for Apprentices under 25 years of age.
8. There is no such thing as an unofficial “Apprenticeship” and you cannot apply the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices to any other job role. A groom that you take on with the agreement that you will train them must be paid the appropriate age-related National Minimum Wage. An Apprenticeship is both a formal job AND a training course which leads to a nationally recognised qualification and is supported by a local college or official training provider.
The National Minimum Wage for Apprentices, age-related National Minimum Wage and Living Wage rates are the minimum you must legally pay an employee. It is not a guideline and it is not a suggested hourly wage. Paying a higher hourly rate is likely to encourage longevity and a lower turnover of staff at your yard.
Other employment conditions for Apprentice Grooms
1. You must offer apprentices the same conditions as other employees working at a similar standard or in similar roles. This includes:
- paid holidays
- sick pay
- any benefits you offer such as childcare voucher schemes
- any support you offer such as coaching or mentoring
2. The Apprentice must study within their statutory working week and not after working hours.
3. You must give your Apprentice(s) a contract of employment and they must be employed in a real job that gives them the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills they need to pass their assessment. You can read more on this matter here.
4. Employing an apprentice groom is subject to anti-discrimmination laws, just as with any other employment status.
Getting funding for your Apprentice’s training
I am advised by the National Apprentice Helpline that in 2017 the Government changed the way funding is provided to cover an apprentice’s training fees. Previously there was what appeared to be a somewhat complicated funding structure according to the age of the apprentice, but this is now simplified greatly.
To understand what funding is available to you as an employer of an apprentice you can follow the answers to this simple question:
Is your annual pay bill more than £3m?
You’ll have to pay the “apprenticeship levy”, which means you’ll receive some funds to spend on training and assessing your apprentices, and the government will add 10%. How you get your funds and pay for training depends on which country in Great Britain you’re in.*
It’s fair to say that most equine employers wont fall into the bracket that requires you to pay the apprenticeship levi. This means:
- if you employ an apprentice aged 16-18 years you can receive 100% funding from the Government*
- if you employ an apprentice aged 19 or over you can receive 90% funding from the Government which will be paid directly to the training organisation. As the employer, you are liable for the remaining 10% of the course fees, which you will need to arrange to pay to the training organisation. You could be eligible for extra funding depending on both yours and your apprentice’s circumstances.*
*As advised by the National Apprentice Service
Next steps in employing an apprentice groom
The first step to take is to find an appropriate training organisation. Employers can browse appropriate apprenticeship training organisations via this link.
The National Apprentice Service can also put you in contact with local training organisations to provide the training course and assessments for your apprentice groom. They are the division within the Government that deals solely with apprenticeships in Great Britain. They don’t have a specific website but you can call them on the freephone number 0800 015 0600 or you can make an enquiry via this form.
See the course options available for employers to offer Apprentices in our article https://thegroomslist.co.uk/equine-apprenticeships-course-options/
Futher information on employing an apprentice groom
To get the latest information about employing an apprentice please visit the Government website via this link.
To speak to someone about your specific questions you can call the National Apprentice Service (the official Government department) on the freephone number 0800 015 0600 or you can make an enquiry via this form.
The Government website contains information about apprenticeship funding via this link.
If you would like assistance and/or advice regarding finding apprentice grooms or apprentice vacancies in the equine industry please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Advertise your apprentice groom vacancy on The Grooms List via this link.
Search The Grooms List for an apprentice groom via this link.
Find more information and advice on recruiting and employing grooms in the equine industry via this link.