How an Apprentice Groom can benefit YOUR yard
In so many of the blogs and articles we write for equine employers, we find ourselves referring to common difficulties when sourcing, securing and retaining good equine career grooms. It’s reasonable to conclude the pool of experienced grooms wanting to remain working with horses and available to yards is diminishing as the years pass. Trainee grooms, including apprentices, are a lifeblood of the equine industry and the ins and outs of employing them need much more consideration than they currently get.
Taking anyone on as an employee is a big responsibility with plenty of legislation to adhere to along associated pitfalls, so it’s very tempting to aim to keep things simple by seeking to only take on employees with experience and a solid employment history. Not only could you find this attempt to keep things simple actually complicates your recruitment drive, as you struggle to attract and secure established, experienced career grooms in what is undeniably a very competitive recruitment market for employers, but by shunning the notion of taking on an apprentice, quite simply, you could be missing out!
Here are some considerations before deciding whether an apprentice groom can benefit your yard.
1. Investing in the future of your yard
Since 2016, in the UK it is compulsory for school leavers aged 16-17 to stay in full-time education, and this includes apprenticeships. With this in mind, the Government provides employers who take on a 16-18 year old Apprentice Groom with a £1000 grant. If you are in a position to take on a school leaver you will receive £500 3-4 months after your Apprentice Groom starts their course with you, and another £500 on their successful completion of the course.
If you take on an Apprentice Groom aged 19+ you will receive 95% funding from the Government for your Apprentice’s course fees and you will need to pay the remaining 5%, which for equine employers is around £250 (as of April 2019). Considering that for at least the first year your Apprentice Groom is legally entitled to the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices (although it may be in your interest to pay more than this – read more here) it can be cost-effective to offer an apprentice vacancy when looking to expand your team.
If you are a business with less than 50 employees you will not have to pay the Apprenticeship Levy.
2. A chance to assemble and develop a strong team
For the majority of yards, any new employee needs to learn the daily requirements and standards regardless of how experienced and established a groom they are. How much of a difficulty is it to go one step further and over time assemble a team of committed, qualified grooms by offering them formal training within your yard via an Apprenticeship? Rather than spend a considerable length of time searching far and wide to find that perfect groom, why not consider spending this time training your perfect groom? A team with shared values, standards and understanding of how things should be done is more likely to work well together.
3. Grooms with a desire to learn are more likely to be committed
A groom who chooses to go through any form of education expresses a desire to be the best they can and do things properly. After all, no one needs qualifications to become a groom, and a lot of grooms end up “job-hopping” sometimes mistaken in their belief that they are gaining experience via a variety of yards. When a trainee groom has the structure of an Apprenticeship course to follow with the end goal of formal, nationally recognised qualifications, they are much less likely to go wandering elsewhere to find the training opportunities they desire. Also, because their training has been structured and overseen by their employer AND the Training Provider, learners can be made more aware of the detrimental impact job-hopping has on their career development.
4. Apprentice Grooms needn’t be transient
It might be that an employer regards an Apprentice Groom as a short-term member of staff in the belief that it is inevitable that they will move on once qualified. However, should they wish to, the same candidate can gain more than one qualification within the same yard and can continue to work at the same yard beyond gaining qualifications there. The truth is that the longevity of an Apprentice Groom can be, in part, in the employer’s hands. As with any Groom, when an Apprentice Groom is a real asset to the yard and the employer recognises this and works with the Apprentice Groom to make the arrangement mutually beneficial in the longer term, the Apprentice Groom has little reason to want to move on quickly and can remain a groom at the same yard for some time beyond gaining qualifications there.
5. Not all Apprentice Grooms are novices
Probably the first thing many equine employers think when considering an Apprentice Groom is that they are not in a position to take responsibility for a beginner. Whilst this is a perfectly reasonable conclusion, it is not entirely accurate. Some Apprentice job seekers may be novice equestrians but, in all honesty, the majority are not. Have a browse through our Apprentice Groom Directory and see for yourself the wide range of experience levels seeking formal training opportunities in the equine industry. The majority are more than capable, practised and proficient at all usual yard duties, and more – many will have spent as much of their time as possible at their local yard, have competed at local and national level themselves, or have even worked with horses in the past or taken a part-time job in their spare time.
If you believe that your yard can provide a suitable environment for an inexperienced beginner you can speak to a Training Provider about offering a 6-20 week Government funded Traineeship. This is a little bit like a “try before you buy” scenario for both the learner and the employer, giving horse enthusiasts the opportunity to test the water and employers reassurance that the learner is likely to be capable of the Equine Apprenticeship course.
If you need a more competent employee from the outset you can consider offering a Level 1, 2 or 3 Equine Apprenticeship, depending on the level of training you’d like to offer. If you run a professional competition yard you can offer an Apprentice Groom the opportunity to complete their Sporting Excellence Study Program in your chosen discipline.
Employing an Apprentice Groom does not mean you and/or your existing staff will be tied up teaching your Apprentice Groom the rudiments of mucking out, cleaning tack or plaiting, unless you would like to! You can choose the level of apprentice you are in a position to train. You can read more about Equine Apprenticeship course options here.
6. An existing groom at your yard can become an Apprentice
As detailed in point 5, not all Apprentice Grooms are novices and, likewise, not all Apprentices are first-time job seekers or employees in the equine industry. A job seeker’s/employee’s desire to gain formal, nationally recognised qualifications at any level in the equine industry is a good thing. It shows ambition, planning and the desire to perform well and should be supported. It could be that an existing groom at your yard would like to gain their Level 2 or 3 Diploma or complete a Sporting Excellence Study Program. Speak to us to find out more about supporting your existing groom through an Apprenticeship course.
7. Grooms of the Future – investing in the equine industry as a whole
As detailed in point 3, Grooms wishing to benefit from structured, meaningful training are an asset to the equine industry, especially when Apprentice Grooms aged 18 and over are opting to take a pay cut when they receive less than the National Minimum Wage for their age in the first year – that shows willing. As much as an employer must invest time and effort in providing appropriate training for their Apprentice Groom, quite often a dedicated groom is meeting this arrangement halfway. Taking on an enthusiastic Apprentice Groom is an employer’s opportunity to support such a person in flourishing into a supergroom of the future – and quite possibly for their own yard.
To each play our part in sustaining and improving the equine industry for years to come we must all need to do more now within our industry to harness the alternative, emerging source of grooms/riders. Working together to validate the role of the 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.
Read 5 top reasons why the equine industry NEEDS apprentice grooms here.