UNION LEARN and NASS SKILLS COURSES 

With our NASS Skills Courses (consisting of IT, Maths and English qualifications) having now reached four different training centres with Newmarket, Epsom, Lambourn and Malton, our next targets are Middleham and the South West. We recently spoke to Becky Rogers who took part in one of the courses in Newmarket to find out more about what she thought and gained from them.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the role you had before and whilst taking part in the NASS Skills course?

I have worked in Racing since I left school at the age of 17.  I always wanted a job with horses since riding ponies as a child but I had never considered racing until I saw an advertisement for The British Racing School in a magazine.  I enrolled on their nine week course and brought myself a one way train ticket down from my home in Scotland to Newmarket and never looked back. Like many young people coming to Newmarket being small and light I dreamed of being a jockey and I was lucky enough to have one ride for Chris Wall that finished third. I would have liked to pursue a career as a jockey but unfortunately I had neither the confidence nor the talent for it, two things that are vital if you want to make it as a jockey.  At least I ended my riding career with a 100% record in the winners’ enclosure! After leaving the Racing School I worked for Chris Wall for three years, where I learnt all about the racing game and how it works. We had a great team and I could not have asked for a better introduction in to racing. From there I went to Sir Michael Stoute’s stable where I worked for eight years.  I loved working for him, it is a fantastic yard and I got to ride some amazing horses including my Group 1 filly Allegretto. I then thought I would try my hand at pre training and worked for 18 months for Darley pre-training.  It was a good experience but I did miss being involved in racing. 

Where and how did you hear about the NASS skills course? 

It was whilst working for Sir Michael Stoute that I first heard about the NASS course. Some of the other members of staff were already taking part on the course and often talked about it.  I thought that it seemed like a really good idea and unlike a lot of local college courses it was designed to fit in with racing hours. 

What made you decide you would like to do it?

Due to a couple of nasty injuries I knew that my days of riding could not last forever as much as I loved it so I thought this would be a good opportunity to add some qualifications to my CV without interfering with my work in the yard.

What were your first thoughts before going onto the course?

I was a little apprehensive as I had not really been near a computer since leaving school - it is just not part of everyday life in racing. I was also looking forward to the challenge and I was worried that it was going to be like going back to school but it was a relaxed informal atmosphere. 

How did you find the initial signing up assessments of the course?

When you first walk in and they mention the word ‘test’ I think just about everybody in the room froze but actually it was fine and it was amazing how much comes back to you from school even when you have not been in a learning environment for the past 13 years.  The assessments are necessary so that the tutor could make sure that we were taking the qualifications that best suited us.  For example the people that did not feel confident to take on NVQ level 2 could do level 1 so that they never felt out of their depth. Equally some people felt that they would only be able to cope with level 1 but had much better outcomes from the assessments than expected so were stepped up to level 2.

How was the course for you, did it match your expectations?

I did not have any expectations as I really had no idea what to expect but the course was really enjoyable the tutor made us all feel relaxed.  Being a small group if there was something you did not understand then there was plenty of time for him to explain everything.  He took his time and made sure that we all understood what he was teaching before moving on to the next item so you never felt out of your depth.  We did the course in sections so learnt all the English and then Maths before doing computer skills, then at the end our final exams.  The most daunting part of the course was the Power Point presentation that we did in front of the class.  The good part was that we could choose our topic and it was good experience to gain confidence in speaking to an audience but I was definitely out of my comfort zone. The sandwiches we got during each lesson are definitely worthy of a mention to.

How did you find the exams for the Maths and English?

The Maths and English exam are held as a proper examination with an official adjudicator which I thought would seem daunting but we were well prepared so it was fine and I felt completely relaxed on the day. The only problem with the maths was that I spent lots of time revising fractions, as I had struggled to grasp them in class, but there was not a single question on them in the test, typical!  

So can you tell us about your current role you now have?

My current position with Godolphin is as racing assistant for Charlie Appleby.  My role is to input all details regarding farrier reports, weights and heights and to place all stable and feed orders required for the yard.  I also cover for Hannah Pollard, the racing secretary, submitting entries and declarations, and the other member of the team Meredith Patrick, inputting veterinary information when they have leave.  It has been fascinating learning about how it all works from this side of the industry.  I had no idea before about all the deadlines and time limits on entries and declarations and I am very lucky to work with these very experienced (and patient!) ladies to help me as I learn my new role.

And would you say that taking part on the course helped you to gain that role?

Taking part in the course has been instrumental to me getting this job as apart from my school results and NVQ’s in racehorse care I have no other qualifications. I think that by doing the course it also demonstrated that I had taken the initiative to push myself further. On top of that gaining the qualifications gave me the confidence to be able to apply for this sort of job which is something I would never have considered before the course.

What would you say to anyone thinking about taking the course?

Very rarely is there an opportunity to gain this sort of qualification for free in hours that are design to fit around your job.  We can never know what the future holds and if the time comes where you cannot or do not want to ride anymore then to have these qualifications on your CV is invaluable.  I have been a Stable Lass for the past thirteen years and if someone told me this time last year that I would be sat in an office working I would have told them they were mad but thanks to the NASS course that is now a reality.  The important thing for me as well was that I did not want to leave the racing industry as I love racing, so to be able to have a different role but still work within the industry is perfect for me.

For any more information on the courses or when they are happening next in a centre near you please get in touch with the NASS office on 01638 663411.

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