Kentucky Survey Reveals The Numbers Behind The Equine Labor Crisis - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Kentucky Survey Reveals The Numbers Behind The Equine Labor Crisis

The results are in from a survey of 350 Kentucky Thoroughbred farms who were asked about their struggles with recruiting and keeping employees.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the University of Louisville Equine Program teamed up to organize the survey through the Chamber's Talent Pipeline Management program. The Pipeline Management program is aimed at identifying the broad issues that keep farms from better recruiting and retaining staff and helping them troubleshoot the challenges holding their businesses back.

Here are a few statistical takeaways from the survey results, which can be found in full here.

– Three-quarters of responding farms reported that more than 30 percent of their workers speak English as a second language. Only 11 percent of farms used visa programs to hire workers, with the farms who didn't use visa programs indicated they were unable to meet program requirements or found the programs too complicated or too expensive.

– Farm managers were the only group which had a significant proportion of workers with college education. Only 30 percent of farm managers had a college education, with many farms noting that formal education was not as crucial to them as hands-on experience.

– Most entry-level grooms at Thoroughbred farms have no previous horse experience before they begin their jobs, which stuck out to the Talent Pipeline Management program as problematic, given the value and energy level of Thoroughbred stock they could be working with.

– At all types of farm jobs, employees tended to stay in their current position a year or longer, with only 10 percent leaving their position because of a promotion and another 10 percent being terminated due to insubordination. That means many people leaving their farm job weren't getting promoted, which reinforced the program's assertion that farms need to clearly map out opportunities for advancement for lower-level farm workers. Just under half of grooms and maintenance workers left their positions voluntarily.

– Only 16 percent of farms conduct exit interviews with employees, making it difficult to know why turnover happens.

– Average hourly pay for an entry level groom is $12.37 – less than hourly pay in the construction ($19.50), manufacturing ($18.70), healthcare ($17.30), or hospitality ($13.47) industries. Farm maintenance workers make an average of $13.45 while experienced grooms make $14.19 per hour on average.

– The size of farm had no meaningful impact on average pay, despite the common perception that larger farms pay better.

– Only 56 percent of farms offer education or training for new hires, and most is limited to onboarding work like introducing the new person to other employees and discussing daily expectations. Relatively few (26 percent) conducted any kind of continuing education and even fewer (10 percent) provided leadership or team building exercises.

– Based on survey results, farms are expected to need a total of 405 replacement workers and 152 new positions between 2022 and 2024.

The data reinforces many of the suggestions the Pipeline Project has put forth in recent years, including improving community outreach, engaging with new populations to source employees, and bettering communication and training for existing staff to help them feel supported at work.

The Paulick Report published this in-depth look at the labor crisis in the equine industry earlier this year.

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