Greatwood plays its part in training young people and easing the shortage of stable staff
Greatwood - the charity at Clench Common which looks after retired racehorses and uses them to help disadvantaged young people - is also an accredited centre for introducing young people to the skills needed for jobs in the various parts of the equine industry.
Last week all the students taking their 1st4sport Get Going educational programme passed the one-week intensive course which gives them an entry level award in 'Assisting with basic care of horses'.
Among the successful students was a nineteen year-old refugee from war-torn Sudan who came to Britain four years ago and now wants to start a career in the racing industry. Another student found that being around horses helped alleviate her medical condition - and for the first time in four years she spent the week without taking pain-killers.
These courses are designed to help young and unemployed people to get on the jobs ladder - and they are also helping with the racing industry's shortage of stable staff.
The need to help the young unemployed is a given in these economic times, but the shortage of stable staff is a newer problem. It has been fuelled by new Home Office rules on entry for experienced work-riders from the Middle East and southern Asia who are favoured by some trainers.
Earlier this month a million pounds from the proceeds of the sale of the publicly-owned Tote to Betfred has been provided to help develop the racing industry's workforce and improve staff retention.
It is estimated that there are currently 500 vacancies in training yards across Britain. And the situation is likely to get worse as the industry expects a thousand more horses will be in training by 2020.
The course run at Greatwood is the '1st4sport Entry Level Award in Assisting with Basic Care of Horses (Entry 2) (QCF)’. It is designed to benefit learners through an introduction to horse care for people who have an interest in horses and may want to work with them, but who have little previous experience.
The award gives the learner the basic skills and knowledge required to assist with caring for horses under supervision and prepares them for further training.
The intensive course includes a ‘field trip’ to a racing yard, talks from industry guest speakers and a veterinary and farrier demonstration. This qualification is run in partnership with the British Horseracing Authority.
The Get Going programme receives no direct funding from the local authority and is not currently eligible for funding from the Skills Funding Agency. Due to the economic and social circumstances of students attending Greatwood, places on the Get Going programme are offered free of charge to the young people and funding comes via grants from trusts and foundations.
It costs Greatwood over £500,000 each year to support up to 60 ex-racehorses and deliver education to 300 disadvantaged young people. The charity relies heavily on the support and generosity of the racing industry as well as the general public - with fund-raising efforts throughout the year.