Equine Apprenticeships are good for everyone!
The Grooms List by Caroline Carter Recruitment Ltd is delighted to publish an article by Linda Hudson, Head of Business Development at Apprenticeship Training Provider Educ8 Training. These guys are not new kids on the block; they have a longstanding presence in the world of Apprenticeships and have been providing World Class Apprenticeships and training for over 13 years now.
Like most of us Linda has had a lifelong passion for horses. She has competed, has BHS qualifications, has worked on an equine yard and has studied Law. An active equestrian and in her own words “a typical Pony Club Mum,” Linda has a unique 360′ view.
Linda has worked in a wide range of non-horsey roles in businesses from sole traders to global organisations and in the last 10 years, she has worked in both college and private training organisations.
Equine Apprenticeship Myths – BUSTED!
by Linda Hudson
So many of my friends running equine yards tell me how difficult it is to find good staff with the right work ethic, how hard it is to keep them, and how much pressure this places on them when they are understaffed either as a one-off as someone’s gone off sick for the day or on a longer-term basis. They tell me stories about having to waste competition entries because they had no one at home to take care of the yard whilst they’re away, or just that finding someone to rely upon was becoming increasingly difficult.
I hear comments from employers such as:
- ‘Kids these days don’t want to put in a full day’s work’
- ‘I’m better off having a working pupil’
- ‘Standards are dropping’
- Young people come here with a paper qualification from a college and don’t have the practical skills we need’
- Staff keep telling me they’re better off ‘on benefits’
But equally, I hear tales from young people who entered the industry full of enthusiasm and hoping for a long- term career only to be disappointed by:
- Not being able to manage financially on their wage – ‘can’t afford driving lessons/to top my phone up/to go on holiday’
- Living in seriously sub-standard accommodation – no heating in winter, no running water, no flushing toilet (yes, honestly!!)
- Unreasonable working hours and expectations sometimes upwards of 60 hours per week
- No contract/pension/job description/H+S/ performance appraisal
- Mucking out all day and receiving no actual training or development
- Feeling they are just used as cheap labour
- Bullying in the workplace
- Finding it’s a ‘dead end job’
So, who’s right, who’s wrong? THEY ALL ARE!
I’m going to ask you to remember that there are two sides to most stories.
As Caroline Carter seems to have said over and over again, just as there are some young people who are letting their employers down, there are some employers who are letting their employees down it’s not all one way. I believe that for every bad employer, who is choosing to ignore basic employment law and health and safety legislation, so putting their business at risk of prosecutions and fines, there are many, many more who believe fervently in providing fair working conditions, training the next generation, teaching them how to do things to the best possible standards of care for the horses we all love.
For every unsuitable employee, looking for a ‘cushy number’, ringing in sick when they’ve had a ‘heavy night’ the night before, there are many, many more who really want to learn, who go above and beyond, who are ambitious to do well and progress in their careers, and who dearly love the horses in their care and drag themselves to work through the worst of winter weather. Why do so many of these end up disenchanted and burnt out after only a few years?
Where does it all go wrong?
I think it starts to go wrong before it’s even begun – before the potential employee/apprentice has even left school! Careers Information, Advice and Guidance in schools varies from fantastic to very weak and many young people and their parents don’t understand the full range of post 16 choices or the pro’s and con’s of each.
It happened to me and my own daughter – let me tell you the tale…
Message: It’s important that employees and parents understand all the options available within education when at school and beyond. It can all go wrong or awry if this isn’t properly researched and thought through in practical and technical terms!
My daughter had had various part time jobs (some with horses, some not) since she was about 13. By the age of 15 she was working as weekend cover for a professional dressage rider and trainer. He thought so highly of her (after a period of time) that he was even prepared to leave her in sole charge of extremely valuable dressage stallions, including turning them out or bringing them in, and dealing with some very challenging livery clients on his behalf, whilst he went off to shows with the full time member of staff as his competition groom! She announced as she went into her GCSE’s that she was not going to stay on at school for A levels. I was horrified!! Having completed my A levels and gone on to university, I thought this was a waste of her education opportunities, it was closing the door to future university if she later decided that was the route she wanted to go. I was so disappointed. We argued endlessly about it. For weeks. Probably for months. She won. She didn’t go back to school. As the only career she was prepared to think about was a career with horses, I set about finding out about college courses and after soul searching, masses of research and a few tears, (mostly mine!) off she trotted to a live in- course at a highly respected equine college a couple of hours’ drive away. She loved it!! She made lifelong friends, she matured, she developed her independence. Fortunately, she also gained the qualification – a Level 3 National Diploma in Horse Care. This also enabled her to then gain a place at a different, equally highly respected equine college where she started a degree in Equine Science. But unfortunately, this is the point where the ‘wheels started to come off’.
Unfortunately for her, although the college course equated to 2 A levels and gave her the UCAS points for university entry, it didn’t prepare her well, as A level study would have, for the level of academic study she faced on a degree course. She struggled with the science as she hadn’t studied any science at A level. A further mistake I made was that I allowed her to keep on eventing her 2 horses – she took one to 2 star during this period – and keep the several part-time jobs she needed to be able to contribute to her horses and eventing costs. I set her up to fail and, in hindsight quite predictably, she switched courses to Equine Business and extended her degree by a year but eventually abandoned it altogether a few months before her final year was due to end after struggling to maintain progress throughout.
The story has a happy ending – she was actually the first one of her uni group to get a full -time job – at the equine college where she’d been a degree student – and she went on to develop a working life outside horses.
Understanding ALL the options – Equine Apprenticeships myths
Clearly my big mistake was when she was leaving school – I had absolutely no idea about apprenticeships as an alternative route. So here with the benefit of hindsight and experience are a few myths I’m going to bust and ‘truths’ I’m going to reveal to help you, whether you are a school leaver, a parent of a school leaver, someone in an equine job/apprenticeship who is feeling uninspired, or an employer.
“Apprenticeships are for students who aren’t academic enough to do A levels or go to college or on to a degree course.”
WRONG. Whilst it’s true that apprenticeships don’t carry UCAS points they do involve academic study and training alongside gaining real workplace skills which employers value. It’s possible to progress all the way to degree level of studies in this way. Even the most vocationally based apprenticeships such as Equine Groom can provide a pathway to degree apprenticeships, for example via Level 3 Team Leading and on to Level 5 Management (foundation degree level) and Level 7 Management (degree level). All the time, earning whilst learning and, importantly, not building up a huge student loan debt!
“Apprenticeships are just for young people.”
WRONG. There is no age limit to an apprenticeship. So long as you meet the other eligibility criteria eg residence in UK or EU etc, employed (not self-employed) status. This means that older people can change careers and access apprenticeship funding for their qualifications. It also means that someone who’s already employed can access apprenticeship funding for further career development. The only difference is that for anyone aged 19+ the Government funds 95% of the training (16 – 18’s are fully funded for small employers with less than 50 staff) and the employer must pay the other 5%
“A working pupil arrangement is better than an apprenticeship.”
WRONG. Apart from very carefully crafted contractual agreements (should be in writing and under professional legal advice) to train someone aged 18+ most working pupil arrangements are in breach of HMRC tax legislation. ‘quid pro quo’ and ‘benefits in kind’ are taxable so this kind of arrangement, over a period of time, could render an employer liable for a huge tax bill. Anyone under 18 is mandated to education or training and so can only be legally employed under an Apprenticeship scheme or a Traineeship. Equally, for the working pupil there are risks – an employer has to have Employers’ Liability Insurance – this covers employees but would not cover a working pupil – because they are not employed! Some employers call their apprentice a working pupil, some call their working pupil an apprentice. They are not the same thing! Be clear about whether this is an apprenticeship, with an apprenticeship training agreement and a contract of employment, or not, whether you are the employee, the employer or a parent!
“All Apprentices are only paid £4.15 per hour.”
WRONG. There is a National Minimum Wage for Apprentices (which changes every year in April) and from April 2020 it is £4.15 but this is just a minimum and employers are free to pay above this if/when they choose. Many employers will usually start an apprentice on the Apprentice minimum wage but may give pay increases as skills and competencies develop.
Additionally, Apprentices aged 19 or over in their second year of an apprenticeship must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage for their age, NOT the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices!
“Apprenticeships are just slave labour.”
WRONG. Every employer of apprentices must provide (and show evidence of this) high-quality training during no less than 20% of the apprentice’s paid working time. Many equine employers provide much more training than this but it’s not always easy to recognise off the job training when it’s happening in a live workplace at intervals during the day instead of by a block of day release to college or a full-time classroom course.
“Apprenticeships are only available to someone with GCSE’s grades A – C, or equivalent in Maths and English.”
WRONG. Whilst some training providers set this as an entry requirement many will support apprentices whose grades were lower.
“If I have an apprenticeship we are tied together for a year or more.”
WRONG. Either employee or employer can give notice in the normal way for any employment situation. The apprenticeship can be transferred to a different employer. The apprentice can be replaced by a new employee.
“Employers don’t value apprenticeships.”
WRONG. Overwhelming feedback from employers is that apprentices develop workplace skills much faster than full-time students.
Find out more…
For further information for Employers, Learners and Parents visit our Apprentice Zone here.
Search and contact job seekers looking for Apprentice Vacancies via our Apprentice Grooms Directory here.
Find out more about Educ8 Training here.