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WMCA launches first-of-its-kind equine management course to help residents into work

Published: Wednesday 01 Feb 2023

Residents from across the region are to be supported into work through a new one-of-a-kind training course in equine management backed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The innovative training course, which is being delivered in Solihull and Wolverhampton, will help address significant labour shortages within the equine industry. It will provide extensive equestrian knowledge and practical skills, including horse management and handling, equine health, and stable design. 

The course will be open to a wide range of people and provide specialist support to help ex-offenders, veterans, the homeless and residents who are long-term unemployed develop the skills they need to find work in the industry.

The course has been co-designed by renowned horse trainer Milton Harris Racing alongside a consortium of employers and RMF training, who specialises in delivering employment-led programmes that target those who need to overcome barriers into work. It has also been backed by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). 

Image (L-R): Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, alongside learners Hadiya Webster and Emily Kirk, Milton Harris from Milton Harris Racing and Ellie Spelman from Solihull Riding Club.

Image (L-R): Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, alongside learners Hadiya Webster and Emily Kirk, Milton Harris from Milton Harris Racing and Ellie Spelman from Solihull Riding Club.

WMCA will invest £500,000 of its devolved Adult Education Budget to develop and run the pilot - the first training course of its type in the West Midlands.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, was present at Solihull Racing Club earlier today for the official launch and met with eleven trainees on the programme as well as trainers and representatives from RMF.

The Mayor said: “A key part of my mayoral mission is to ensure local people across our region have the skills they need to succeed by accessing high quality job opportunities.

“And the more diverse the range of opportunities we can offer, the better. We’re certainly achieving that in this case through what is a rather unique equine skills management course. For those who may have faced personal challenges or fallen on hard times, I hope the therapeutic nature of this programme and the significant employment prospects on offer in this sector gives participants a fair shot at finding a rewarding career.

“I want to thank Milton Harris Racing for sharing their sector expertise with us in designing this course and I hope this pilot will be a starting point for much more exciting collaboration in the months and years ahead.”

One person who has greatly benefitted from the course is Emily Kirk, who wants to use the skills she has acquired in a career as an equine chiropractor.

She said: “I’ve loved my time on the course and have learnt everything from the basics of saddling a horse and maintaining its stables correctly, to vital grooming and stud work.

“It has been an ideal way to create a pathway for my dream job working within the industry, as I’m not sure how else I would have able to learn and make the connections I have otherwise.”

A horse being groomed by a trainee

Each person in the programme will be supported with accommodation as part of the job, and offered mentoring support and signposting to other support organisations.

In addition, further work experience is available during race days at Dunstall Park in Wolverhampton where individuals can get hands on learning behind the scenes.

Ray McGee, managing director of RMF Training Group, said: “We're proud to have a played a big part in creating this inclusive equine management course which will ensure all participants have access to the training, skills, and support they need to become a success in the sector.

“The funding and support given by both the WMCA and Milton Harris Racing has been instrumental in making this a reality and we’re keen to develop more innovative programmes like this to meet demand and support residents in near future.”

Cllr George Duggins, WMCA portfolio lead for skills and productivity and leader of Coventry City Council said: “The WMCA’s equine skills training course will not only help address significant labour market shortages, but also represents the region’s commitment to help people into work from across all backgrounds and support them to get on the right track to land a good career in the future.

“It is vital that we continue to offer the chance for people to retrain and upskill as it will have such a critical role to play in creating talented workforces throughout the region and further strengthen the backbone of our future economy.”

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