Like many primary industries, there has been a growing shortage of skilled labour in the thoroughbred industry, but the cavalry are coming.
Byerley Park’s Daniel Nakhle has long held ambitions of setting up an educational provider at his South Auckland property, and that dream will come to fruition next month.
Nakhle and Byerley Park Manager, former jockey Donavan Mansour, have been working behind the scenes over the last 18 months to get a thoroughbred introductory course off the ground.
The culmination of their hard work has resulted in the launch of a new 19-week Level 2 course based at Byerley Park, which will offer students a fees free pathway into the thoroughbred industry.
E A LA N D C E R T I F I CAT E I N E Q U I N E
“We are going to start with a 19-week programme that is targeted at people aged between 16 and 21, with little or no experience (in the thoroughbred industry),” Mansour said.
“It is a Level 2 NZQA course and it is aimed at getting people involved in and exposed to the (thoroughbred) industry. We have got funding for 14 students.”
Mansour said a major selling point of the course is that it is completely free and students have the opportunity to earn while they learn.
“Students will do work experience at places like Westbury Stud, Haunui Farm, and Cambridge Stud at Karaka, and also with local trainers Peter and Dawn Williams, Jenna Mahoney, and Danny Walker,” Mansour said.
“They will be paid for their work experience and the course is free, their uniforms are free, all of their course material is free, so there are no hidden costs.
“In the first four weeks there will be a lot of classroom and stable learning, but once they start work experience they can earn up to $300 per week for the first four weeks and then $500-$600 until the end of the 19 weeks.
“The more experience they gain, the more earning potential they get.
“It has been awesome to get the support from the stud farms and stables around us.”
While there will be classroom based theory work, Mansour said the course will consist of a lot of practical work, with students gaining exposure to a variety of roles within the industry.
“They will be going on a lot of excursions,” Mansour said. “They will be going to the races every second week and they will spend time with a variety of people including camera operators, vets, float drivers, jockeys, and stewards.
“Every Wednesday is excursion day, so they will either go to the races or they could go to Dunstan Feeds for the day, for example, or spend time with a float driver.
“We just want to expose them to all the different avenues in the industry.”
The course will be run in association with Skill New Zealand and Mansour said they have been invaluable in getting the course off the ground.
“Skill New Zealand is the education provider, we built the curriculum with them,” Mansour said. “They have been a big asset in setting up the course and gaining the funding.”
While Mansour is excited about the first intake of students, he is even more animated about the launch of the New Zealand Jockey Academy at Byerley Park in February next year, subject to NZQA approval.
Having gone through the jockey academy system in South Africa, Mansour believes it will be a great asset to thoroughbred racing in New Zealand.
“In February we are launching the jockey academy, which will be very similar to the way it is run in South Africa and the British Racing School – they (apprentices) will live on campus,” Mansour said.
“Their nutrition, exercise, and overall health and well-being will be closely monitored as we are making them professional athletes.
“It will be a four year apprenticeship and we will be looking for about six apprentices.
“The difference will be that they are apprenticed to Byerley Park, so they will ride out for different trainers and they can go to Cambridge and ride down there, so they are not tied down to one employer.”
Mansour’s riding career was cut short after he suffered a broken pelvis in a fall at Te Aroha in 2019 and he has envisioned starting a jockey academy in New Zealand since joining Nakhle at Byerley Park last year.
“I was lucky enough to come and work for Daniel at Byerley Park and I pitched the idea (of a jockey academy) to him,” Mansour said.
“I said I would love to run an academy like we have in South Africa as I think it gives an apprentice better opportunities to spread themselves.
“He said that he had tried to do something similar five years ago but couldn’t get it over the line.
“We put a business plan together and got a lot of support from Bruce Sharrock and NZTR (New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing). We have had a lot of meetings over the last 18 months.”
With the light at the end of the tunnel, Mansour is just waiting upon NZQA approval for the course.
While Mansour will head the programme, he is looking forward to overseeing the first intake for the Level 2 New Zealand Certificate In Equine Skills, where he will be joined by former Group One-winning jockey Kelly Myers as a tutor.
“I will be heading the Level 2 course for this intake and then from next year I will mainly be focussing on the jockeys,” Mansour said.
“Kelly Myers will be tutoring. She has got a great CV, not only as a jockey, but with a background in nutrition and teaching, so that will complement the academy very well.”
The 19-week Level 2 course is set to begin on September 6, with interviews for prospective students currently underway.
For more information contact Donavan Mansour on 0210788355 or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org – NZ Racing Desk