The Equine Workforce Development Initiative has launched a Thoroughbred industry workforce data collection effort for the state of Kentucky to better identify employer needs and fill staff shortages.

The Equine Workforce Development Initiative is a collaborative effort between the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Foundation Workforce Center, created to address the shortage of skilled equine workers across the state. The goal of the initiative is to understand the needs of employers and subsequently use that information to better inform educational and community partners who can assist with filling gaps in the equine industry’s workforce.

The work and results of the Equine Workforce Development Initiative all stem from employer collaboratives in which employers engage in conversation about the most pressing issues of the industry. In a 2019 study conducted by the Thoroughbred Farm collaborative, it was projected by just ten farms that there was a need for 255 new and replacement grooms before 2021. With an estimated five-hundred Thoroughbred farms in Kentucky, this is little more than a drop in the proverbial water bucket of actual talent needed.

“Like many states and industries around the country, the equine industry in Kentucky is struggling to find qualified workers to fill its ranks,” states Laurie Mays, Equine Talent Pipeline Project Manager with KEEP and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “However, the lack of concrete data needed to substantiate the current workforce crisis has hindered progress in equine workforce development. The creation of the Thoroughbred Data Collection Project survey will allow the industry to obtain the vital information needed to advance crucial conversations with organizations and individuals who support workforce growth in our unique industry.”

The Thoroughbred Data Collection Project was derived from the Thoroughbred farm collaborative group to obtain concrete evidence of the state of the equine workforce. Despite the widely acknowledged fact that workforce shortages are prevalent in the Thoroughbred industry, there is limited industry-specific data that quantifies the scope of workforce needs and where deficiencies exist. Without statistical evidence of staffing challenges, the industry’s quest for community engagement, initial job training, upskilling, and financial assistance is difficult.

The data collection process, completed by Thoroughbred Farms around Kentucky, will occur through a brief online survey developed collaboratively with the University of Louisville Equine Industry Program. The anonymous survey will identify the size of farms and demand projections for particular positions, analyze trends in recruitment and hiring, as well as understand staff retention and reasons for turnover. After analysis from the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program, the information provided will form an industry baseline to enhance existing projects and assist in identifying new programs and initiatives that need to be implemented.

For more information about the Thoroughbred Data Collection Project or to participate in the survey, contact Laurie Mays at [email protected].





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