A Trainer’s Experience of Having an Apprentice
When GBGB launched the Animal Care and Welfare Assistant Apprenticeship Scheme last September, trainer Phil Simmonds thought this would be an excellent opportunity for his kennelhand Nathan Hunt. Here, Phil talks about his experience of employing an apprentice and how he has supported Nathan during the year.
“We all have a responsibility to train the next generation of people working in the greyhound industry. I am not going to be able to work in the kennels forever and I am mindful that, like all trainers, I’m going to have to find someone hard-working, responsible and enthusiastic about dogs to take over the reins.
Nathan joined the kennels over three years ago after leaving Wales to follow his love of greyhound racing. He has really thrown himself into his work and has become an indispensable member of our team. When we first heard about the apprenticeship I knew Nathan would be a great candidate and would fully embrace all the opportunities it would offer. Coral offered to sponsor Nathan through the apprenticeship and I was delighted that he was able to join the first cohort of apprentices.
As this is the first year of the scheme, we are in unchartered territory but so far it is going very well. The apprenticeship is providing people entering our sport with a proper qualification in caring for greyhounds. I left school at 15 and back then you moved from kennel to kennel to gain wider experience, learning from those higher up the pecking order. Today it’s different; like any industry you need the appropriate qualifications behind you which act as proof of your proficiency and professionalism and this is no different in greyhound racing. This isn’t an easy living and you need to be able to show evidence that you’re up to the job and that you have the skills, talent and drive to succeed.
As part of the scheme, Nathan has participated in about ten off-the-job training visits. He has visited the Racing Office at Romford, participated in an animal first aid training course and, most recently, visited GBGB’s forensic sampling lab to learn about the integrity work that goes on behind-the-scenes. Nathan always talks to me about these visits and I have found it fascinating to hear about what he has learnt.
He took away a great deal from the visit to the Dogs Trust in Loughborough where the apprentices spent time with an animal behaviourist. Nathan gained a real understanding of how important it is to prepare racing greyhounds for retirement and, as a kennel, we have taken away lessons from what he learnt there.
The off-the job training has given him access to experiences I am not able to offer him at the kennels. It’s even taught me a thing or two! Obviously I have had to find cover for the days that Nathan is on these visits but I am always given ample notice so it hasn’t been a problem. I want him to get the most out of this opportunity so I have always ensured that he is able to attend these days. In fact, I am rather jealous of him; I would have loved to have gone on these visits!
I am really proud of the way Nathan has embraced the apprenticeship. Indeed his positive approach, work ethic and can-do attitude are what earned him the coveted Kennel Hand of the Year at the GBGB awards in January.
Throughout the year, I have seen Nathan’s skills and knowledge improve and I can now see him being able to take over his own kennels in the future. Nathan is being given high-quality training and with this qualification under his belt he has a very bright future ahead of him in this sport. There has been a specific focus on welfare on the scheme and we can all be confident that the youngsters coming through the apprenticeship will raise the bar of welfare across our sport.
If, in the future, another kennelhand wishes to enrol in the scheme, I would be more than happy to support them. It’s really important that us ‘seniors’ get behind them and help them pursue successful, enjoyable and winning careers as greyhound trainers.”
For more information on the Animal Care and Welfare Assistant Apprenticeship, please contact GBGB HR Manager Zoë Brown on email@example.com.
(Pictured: Romford Stadium Manager Karen McMillan (right) presents the Essex Vase trophy to Prime Time’s owner Betty Turner. Also pictured from left: Ben Lewis, Nathan Hunt, Bryan Turner and trainer Phil Simmonds. Photo: © Steve Nash)