SIX MONTHS OF BRINGING SOCIAL VALUE TO THE EQUINE SECTOR
It has been six months since ITV News covered the launch of RMF Group’s equine management course at Solihull Riding Club, outlining our goal to create long-term employment opportunities in the equine industry for West Midlands residents with barriers to work.
RMF Equine’s six-month anniversary was capped off by a glowing opinion piece from Andrew Dietz of the Racing Post, following up his first article on our equine management course to express his admiration for our “groundbreaking initiative” that has helped our learners “[find] a passion ignited in them, which they have developed into a career”, and his hopes that “the success [RMF Equine] is having will lead to it being rolled our on a wider scale” to simultaneously help tackle the labour shortages at riding schools and stables across the UK.
Dietz’ views were echoed by the British Horse Association, who have supported our efforts from the start and see that “the potential is there for [RMF Equine] to develop into an invaluable asset” to the equine industry and ease its staffing crisis.
As a company with a background in construction, launching an equine programme seemed like an indomitable risk. We were able to achieve our dream thanks to our trusted partner, West Midlands Combined Authority, and the incredible support of Andy Street, Mayor of West Midlands. We already worked closely with WMCA to fund our CPCS construction course pathways, thanks to the Adult Education Budget. Their faith in our infrastructure and vested passion in horses saw them invest £500,000 to make RMF Equine a reality.
“THE POTENTIAL IS THERE FOR RMF EQUINE TO DEVELOP INTO AN INVALUABLE ASSET TO THE EQUINE INDUSTRY AND EASE ITS STAFFING CRISIS.“
The British Horse Association
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said “We know that there are many individuals in the West Midlands who have fallen on hard times and feel uncertain about their future workplace prospects. That’s why it is so important that we support them to develop their skills and find work, by creating training opportunities across a range of sectors. This is no better reflected than with the launch our unique equine skills management course. The therapeutic nature of the programme and progressive employment opportunities available in the sector means that it provides the perfect opportunity to help those furthest away from the labour market receive a fair shot at finding a rewarding career”.
We remain grateful to the Mayor and his determination to bring diversity to skills and employment opportunities in the West Midlands. The Mayor has championed RMF’s cause long before we launched our equine programme, paying site visits to our multiple initiatives and meeting our staff and learners. His continued presence in our course has been significant in guaranteeing our success, and the success is showing no signs of slowing down.
29 RMF Equine learners have secured long-term jobs or further accredited training placements within the equine industry since completing their Level 1 Work-Based Horse Care Diploma with RMF Equine. Destinations include positions with acclaimed racing trainers Ian Williams and Willie Carson, as well as beyond the West Midlands like Berkshire Riding Club, The Spanish Bit, and the National Trust.
Our learners come from a variety of backgrounds, including the homeless, ex-offenders, veterans and long-term unemployed. We have asserted from the start that providing training and learning support to those in need makes all the difference in their career paths. Presented with the rare opportunity to enter a niche industry with benefits such as included accommodation and travel opportunities, our learners have achieved amazing outcomes.
Matt Beale from the very first cohort went from insecure employment in logistics, to walking at the Grand National in just two months. Reiss Dexter from Cohort 4 joined Ian Williams Racing as a yard groom, and quickly worked his way up to walkouts at race meetings. From hospitality in Birmingham city centre to horse training in the gorgeous Alvechurch countryside, Reiss has encouraged his brother to join the course and find his own pathway in equine. Stephen Hatton of Cohort 6 had struggled for decades with recidivism, which had caused a deteriorating relationship with his mother and resulted in little-to-no work experience. The equine programme gave Stephen renewed focus, and after excelling in his programme, he easily succeeded in gaining employment with Overbury Stud.
Transformation is not limited to our learners. RMF Equine has granted opportunities to respected equine professionals to side-step into a new, fruitful career in education. The course is in the capable hands of former jockey and 8-time Grand National competitor Dom Elsworth, offering decades of knowledge from his equestrian career, working under famed showjumper Harvey Smith and trainers such as Oliver Sherwood, Paul Webber, Lucy Wadham and Henrietta Knight. He is supported by fellow former jockey and Cheltenham Festival winner Ryan Hatch, and Milton Harris Racing trainer and experienced horse riding and care instructor Danielle Schroder.
Elsworth says: “I’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm of our learners. So many come through the doors having never seen a horse in real life before. They’re fearsome creatures, but the learners push through the fear and get stuck in.
“I believe enthusiasm goes a long way; if you’re willing to learn and put in the time and effort, you can excel with horses. It’s all about attitude. I’m not surprised by the success of some of the learners I’ve seen – I could tell when I was teaching them that they’d progress into better things.”
From expert staff to the dedicated high-quality facilities provided by Solihull Riding Club, RMF Equine has not been done by halves. Full commitment has been given to the best standard of education since we welcomed our first learners in February, extending beyond teaching the course curriculum. Learners benefit from exclusive visits to different employers in the industry, to understand the full scope of opportunities in equine and give important context to their newly developed skills. This includes veterinarians, dentists, display teams, riding schools and stud farms. We also ran our inaugural Equine Employer’s Fair in June, to give hiring employers such as The British Horse Society the chance to conduct interviews with our learners and find see RMF Equine’s programme in action first-hand.
We have exciting plans for future expansion, to create social value further afield of the West Midlands. RMF has rolled out an adapted equine programme to prisons, which makes use innovative VR tech to teach horse care theory and upskill those in custody as they prepare to leave and reintegrate into society. We have upskilled multiple cohorts at HMP Bullingdon and HMP Erlestoke, and now plan to further develop the scheme to more prisons, with the option of real-world training through Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL). We are also seeking ways to bring the course to different regions and aid in permanently reducing local unemployment rates and related skills gaps.
Dara McCarthy, Director of Business Development, Innovation and Social Value for RMF Group, says: “The equine industry is a personal passion of mine and our CEO. We are lifelong horse racing fans, even owning a horse ourselves.
“As someone who always seeks to find solutions, I saw the demand for more staff from stables across the country and combined that with our goal to help residents upskill and change their lives; it was easy to connect the dots.
“We are led by employers and by our learners. We don’t take shortcuts to be more profitable, we do what’s right for who we work with, and that is why we’re successful and will continue to be successful.”
With much in place for the next six months, RMF Equine is ready to go from a trot into a full gallop, can’t wait to see how the course has developed at the one-year mark. In the meantime, we will continue to show our learners the way from office buildings and grey skies to green, rolling hills.