Stable staff shortage having major impact on industry
Problems surrounding the recruitment, training and retention of stable staff are having "a significant impact on the racing industry", British racing was told on Tuesday.
That was the conclusion drawn from a survey of trainers and their workforce commissioned by the Racing Foundation and delivered by independent research organisation Public Perspectives in partnership with the National Trainers Federation, National Association of Stable Staff and BHA.
The sport has also been told more funding is required to tackle the issue.
Of the 457 trainers (79 per cent of the total) who responded to the survey, 38 per cent stated that recruitment, skills and retention issues are a problem for their business.
The survey found that 48 per cent of permanent vacancies in the racing industry are hard to fill compared to 33 per cent nationally.
Of the 936 staff members who took part (15 per cent of the workforce), 80 per cent are satisfied with their jobs but only 29 per cent received training and development in the last 12 months and 21 per cent said they are likely to consider leaving the industry within two years.
The main aim of the survey was to provide baseline information to help shape a £1 million initiative, funded by the Racing Foundation which oversees the distribution of funds from the sale of the Tote, to support the development and retention of racing’s workforce, an initiative being led by the BHA.
The report said: "The results confirm that recruitment, skills and retention issues are having a significant impact on the racing industry, but, given the specific issues highlighted by the survey, the findings also indicate that the programmes currently being offered and developed as part of the Racing Foundation-funded initiative are being appropriately targeted in an industry-wide attempt to address the problems."
Stable staff shortages have become an increased focus for the sport, with the National Trainers Federation surveying its members in May 2015 and finding a conservative shortfall of 500 staff.
Discussing the new survey NTF chief executive Rupert Arnold said: "I'm constantly being contacted by trainers who find it very difficult to find enough staff but equally there also some trainers who don't seem to have too much of a problem.
"The main point is there aren't enough skilled grooms and riders to meet every vacancy across the sport."
He added: "It's quite difficult to pin down in terms of a pure number but all we can say is that from the feedback from trainers there is a pretty substantial gap and it is not reducing."
BHA director of people and development Carole Goldsmith said the sport knew what needed to be done and had a plan, "but it requires proper funding and investment".
"We cannot sustain the current programme of activity without a further injection of funds," she added.
That was one of three key points Goldsmith mentioned, along with raising the staffing issue up the sport's agenda.
Goldsmith said: "We talk about The Horse Comes First. Who looks after the horses? The people. I think the truth is they are inextricably linked."
She added: "In order to protect what we already have we need to act now. There's a risk with the current funding structure that we may lose some of what is working and set us back a long way so we need to act now in order to protect, sustain and grow."
The initiatives being funded by the Racing Foundation include accessible learning for stable and stud staff, a careers advice and training service, personal development planning for jockeys and enhanced careers marketing to improve recruitment.
Responding to the survey, the foundation's chief executive Rob Hezel said: "The results identify some very clear issues which we look forward to supporting our industry colleagues in tackling.
"It's also pleasing to see the foundation taking a pro-active stance in helping to identify important issues that need to be addressed."
24% (approximately) of all permanent yard roles require recruitment activity annually, due to staff turnover or growth
48% of permanent vacancies in the racing industry are hard to fill
51% of trainers have not been able to fund or arrange training or development for their staff in the last 12 months
38% of trainers stated that recruitment, skills and retention issues are a problem for their business
80% of stable staff are satisfied with their jobs
21% of staff members stated that they are likely to consider leaving the industry within two years.