Horse seeks groom

09.05.2008

After the booming Irish horseracing industry exhausted the domestic labour market, EURES stretched out to Central Europe in search of competent staff for the sector. Horseracing has always been a big part of Irish culture, and, with the boom of the Irish economy in recent years, it has become a real focus of investment. Great news for the horseracing sector – except that the fast-growing success of the industry created a whole new problem: that of finding suitable employees for the many new vacancies.

Originally the gaps were filled with Asian and Ukrainian workers. “The Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA) often collaborated with several Asian countries”, says Tom McEnroe, a EURES Adviser in Ireland who worked with the horseracing industry on their hunt for highly trained employees. “This was due to the high quality of training schools and to the large supply of industry workers in those countries.”

However, the benefits of collaborating closer to home became more and more apparent. Not only could the same quality of training be found (and extended) within the EU, but the ease of migration between EU countries meant that the highly specific training required could be more easily monitored by members of the sector, and that training professionals, employees and resources could be easily transported. The Irish horseracing sector thus decided to seek out partnerships that could make use of the training facilities already available throughout the EU. The industry was referred to the Irish National Training and Employment Authority (FÁS) and finally to EURES, where Tom McEnroe stepped in. He helped to identify five Member States with well-established racehorse industries: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic.

A trial run in Poland proved successful, and provided some of the required workers (such as grooms), but it was still proving hard to source the all-important riders and jockeys. As such, the project moved its focus to the Czech Republic in May 2007, joined by Slovakia in September that year.

Recruiters from the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA) and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association (ITBA), as well as the Irish EURES Advisers, were very pleased to discover in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia a well-established structure for the education and training of suitable staff for the Irish horseracing industry. Several colleges and training institutes in these countries also showed a keen interest to collaborate with EURES in the future. As a consequence, the number of available places in these colleges will be increased if a guarantee of placement will be given by the Irish horseracing industry. In addition, colleges in Bratislava and Prague are also planning to provide English language courses and organise internship placements in Ireland for final year students as key attractive elements for their programmes. Furthermore, the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA) and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association (ITBA) will provide these schools with Irish horses so that the future grooms can start training and get used to them before even going to Ireland.

The Irish Racehorse Industry Recruitment Project will be soon taken to Hungary, Austria and back to the southern regions of Poland. There is no doubt, however, that the future success of the project will largely depend on increased cooperation with schools, colleges and associations in even more countries.

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