Horse industry apprenticeship hopes to fill work force void

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LEXINGTON, Ky.(WTVQ) – A horse industry hopes a new apprenticeship will help fill a work force void caused, in part, by recent changes to the federal government’s H-2B immigration program.

The apprenticeship is described as “earn and learn” training for those interested in working in the horse industry. Given the recent suspension of H-2B visas in the United States, an avenue which has historically been critical to Kentucky’s equine industry workforce, the apprenticeship program comes an an opportune time to train a workforce, according to organizers.

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The apprenticeship encompasses 2,000 hours of employer-structured work to attain industry-recognized skills needed to begin or continue a career in any horse-related industry such as racing, breeding, showing, and other similar disciplines.

While on the job, apprentices will learn or improve their skills in areas such as horse handling, feeding and nutrition, proper grooming and exercise, identification of disease or illness, basic health care and medical treatments and facility care and maintenance.

Advantages for apprentices include:

  • Earn while you learn at your own pace
  • Learn the skills horse industry employers have shown they are seeking
  • Advancement within the industry promoting an increased future earning potential
  • Faster access to state mandated occupational licensing

Advantages for employers include:

  • Customized training
  • A skilled workforce educated by industry experts
  • Improved productivity and lower turnover

This new apprenticeship is the result of collaboration between the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce/Kentucky Equine Education Project’s Equine Talent Pipeline Workforce Initiative, the Bluegrass Community and Technical College Workforce Solutions / North American Racing Academy and equine employers across the industry.

Additionally, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System will help through its newly launched apprenticeship support program developed specifically to help employers manage their apprenticeships. The services BCTC and KCTCS will assist employers with include:

  • Recruitment
  • Mentorship/Coaching
  • Administrative Services: Federal registration, Employer Acceptance Agreements
  • Compliance / Record-Keeping: Ensuring that apprentices are completing on-the-job training and classroom instruction.
  • Evaluating ROI and employer’s satisfaction with their workforce pipeline.

Apprenticeships have been utilized in various industries across the United States for decades, providing education and training within the setting that knows best, the workplace. The introduction of the Horseman apprenticeship elevates the Kentucky equine industry to a higher tier, allowing any individual the opportunity for world-class hands-on learning.

“Adding a nationally recognized apprenticeship for aspiring horsemen and horsewomen to our industry’s workforce recruitment and training toolbox will help immeasurably. This program helps us make working with horses more accessible to more potential workers and breaks down many of the barriers to entry which often exist,” noted Remi Bellocq, executive director of the North American Racing Academy at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

“The horse industry has been hungry for a way to bring all the players together to reach, and train, a broader audience of new horseman. The creation of the Horseman apprenticeship in Kentucky, the Horse Capitol of the World, is the perfect solution” stated Laurie Mays, equine talent pipeline project manager with KEEP and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “Both apprentices and employers can expect great things from this program.”

For employers or potential apprentices seeking more information, contact either Laurie Mays (lmays@kychamber.com) or Gary Robinson (gary.robinson@kctcs.edu).