Stephen Place explains why he set up BLACUP, a company that offers students help and training for NVQs

BLACUP started in January 1996 when Stephen Place gained a contract to undertake equestrian skills training from the Training Enterprise Council (now the Learning Skills Council).

“I had always had trainees on my own yard, but I wasn’t happy with the way they were managed,” explains Stephen.

He began by establishing a broad base of training employers from as wide a variety of yards as possible.

“I wanted to make sure trainees could specialise in the area they wanted, but I didn’t want their desire to learn abused or for them to be over-worked. New training placements are hand-picked.”

BLACUP trainees work towards National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) at their placement yards. An NVQ is made up of mandatory units that have to be completed and, in addition, there are specialist units such as riding, breeding, care of the competition horse and care of the heavy horse.

“NVQs address the needs of the industry,” continues Stephen. “The trainees have to be competent with the general aspects of grooming, such as clipping,strapping and feeding, but they also have their own specialist skills. All our trainees get ‘on the job’ training.

The company is opposed to the old working pupil system and believes employers need to be competitive to keep their staff.

“Today’s young workers are aware of the maximum working hours, holiday and pay entitlement. You won’t get a groom to live in a leaking caravan on £30 a week when they can earn £180 in a fast food restaurant,” warns Stephen.

BLACUP staff visit trainees every four weeks, for a review and progress report. If a trainee is unhappy with the placement they can move. Trainees can also slow down or speed up the rate at which they acquire their skills.

“We’re growing very rapidly and are aiming to be a National Training Provider so that we can cover all of England,” says Stephen.

If you think you may be able to provide a suitable training placement, contact BLACUP (tel: 01422 203615) or visit their website www.blacuptraining.co.uk

  • Click here to read about life as a groom.
  • Click here for expert advice on getting that dream job.

    Join NAGS

    NAGS membership is available to all bonefide grooms and students. Membership benefits include:

    • Horse & Hound subscription at £1 a copy
    • £3discount voucher for Blue Chip Dynamic
    • 10% discount on Splash Equestrian equipment and clothing
    • 10% discount on Waggers comfy pets and people products
    • No postage and packing charges from Equestrian Vision mail order.
    • Eligibility forNAGS-only competitions

    For a membership form email: nags@ipcmedia.com or (tel: 020 7261 5264).