Horse sec­tor faces labour cri­sis

The thor­ough­bred in­dus­try is strug­gling to fill job va­can­cies, writes Siob­han English

Irish Independent - Farming - - HORSES -

WITH more young peo­ple leav­ing school and head­ing straight to col­lege, the thor­ough­bred and sport horse in­dus­tries are find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to find en­thu­si­as­tic staff to join the pay roll.

Each week, there are dozens of good jobs ad­ver­tised in the na­tional press, yet the va­can­cies are hard to fill.

School-leavers are be­ing en­cour­aged to get a third-level qual­i­fi­ca­tion, and those grad­u­at­ing are opt­ing for eas­ier jobs both at home and abroad.

“There is go­ing to be an even more se­ri­ous staffing cri­sis in stud farms if we can­not en­cour­age more young peo­ple to come on board,” says breeder Paul McGrath ( right).

A na­tive of Clash­more in West Water­ford, he has wit­nessed the is­sue first hand from his time man­ag­ing a large pri­vate stud farm in the south of the coun­try.

“We were for­tu­nate in re­cent weeks to take on two young staff mem­bers and they are prov­ing to be bril­liant work­ers, but over­all, there is a se­ri­ous short­age out there.

“Un­for­tu­nately, so many are now go­ing straight to col­lege and af­ter that, they just want nine-to-five jobs. We do not need peo­ple with de­grees — we badly need those with com­mon sense and who are will­ing to learn.

“There are some fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­ni­ties out there and the ITBA Next Gen­er­a­tion Ap­pren­tice­ship Scheme is one great way of get­ting into the busi­ness.”

Now just 26, Paul him­self only got in­ter­ested in horses at the age of 16, hav­ing come from a purely farm­ing back­ground.

“While still in school, I used to spend my week­ends with well­known breeder Frank Mother­way.

Af­ter that, I stud­ied agri­cul­ture in Kil­dal­ton Col­lege and, as the el­dest son, was look­ing at a life in farm­ing. We keep pedi­gree Charo­lais cat­tle,” he said.

“It was only when I did my place­ment with another breeder, Sea­mus Kennedy,­ and his sis­ter El­iz­a­beth that I de­cided this is what I wanted to do. Sea­mus had ad­vised me to join the ITBA Next Gen­er­a­tion which of­fered great sup­port and en­cour­age­ment.” Open to all, the ITBA Next Gen­er­a­tion pro­vides fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­ni­ties for young mem­bers in the form of ed­u­ca­tion sem­i­nars, net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and vis­its to train­ers’ yards and stud farms.

It was also around this time that Paul ac­quired his first brood­mare, Nerissa, a daugh­ter of Great Palm and from the same fam­ily as Fol­som Blue, The Game Changer and Spirit Leader.

Since then, he has in­creased his herd with the ad­di­tion of Uranna, for­merly trained by Wil­lie Mullins.

At the most re­cent sales in Fairy­house, both Uranna and Nerissa pro­duced foals that sold for €50,000 and €20,000 re­spec­tively. Uranna has [email protected] also pro­duced a year­ling filly by Shan­tou and she will most likely be re­tained by her breeder for rac­ing.

With his mind firmly set in the thor­ough­bred in­dus­try, Paul ap­plied for the ITBA Ap­pren­tice­ship Scheme in 2010, but wasn’t suc­cess­ful. In­stead, he com­pleted the course at the Ir­ish Na­tional Stud.

“I know my­self I did not have enough ex­pe­ri­ence to get the ap­pren­tice­ship at the time, but it has since proven to be a won­der­ful step­ping stone for a lot of young peo­ple.”

In re­cent years, Paul has also worked with Jim Bol­ger, from whom he gained im­mense ex­pe­ri­ence in both the rac­ing and breed­ing side of the in­dus­try.

In time, Paul would love to branch out on his own, but for now, he is con­tent in his cur­rent role as a stud man­ager closer to home.

“I have been lucky in that I have worked with some great peo­ple and the guid­ance I have re­ceived from past and present em­ploy­ers has been in­valu­able.

“I have also had great sup­port from my fam­ily and hard work and deter­mi­na­tion have got me to where I am now. Down the road, I would love to run my own busi­ness,” he said.

There is a ma­jor short­age of young peo­ple en­ter­ing the Ir­ish horse breed­ing in­dus­try

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