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Greeting racegoers at <br>British Champions Day
Greeting racegoers at
British Champions Day
Friday 1st February 2013

By Ross Hamilton, BHA External Affairs Officer

The British Horseracing Graduate Development Programme, running for over twenty years, offers a valuable opportunity for University leavers to get involved in the exciting and diverse British Racing industry. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity and want to encourage anyone, whether you can ride a horse or not, or haven’t placed a bet in your life, to have a go at applying for this excellent scheme.

I started my studies at St Andrews in 2006 when the words “credit crunch” and “recession” were not part of the everyday vocabulary. Then, halfway through my four years studying International Relations and Modern History; the sky darkened, the banks almost collapsed, the economy plunged into recession and suddenly the prospects for almost every graduate finding work became significantly harder. Upon graduating in June 2010, the situation hadn’t improved and I spent the next year working locally, trying to keep some experience on my CV, while also desperately trying to find an opportunity to pursue a career in the world of sport. I will happily admit that I am a sports nut (my favourite fortnight every four years is the Olympics) and I passionately follow plenty of sporting events – from a football match, to a Grand Prix or a boxing bout, or indeed a Classic horserace.

Then, on what seemed like the thousandth trawl of graduate job websites like Milkround by myself and family, my mother came across the British Horseracing Graduate Development Programme. I certainly was not from a Racing background – but I had watched enough races, and even attended a couple of meetings, with my late grandfather on days off school, to gain a basic knowledge of the sport. I never thought that it would offer a career – but from the moment I read the advert; explaining the structured nature of the two week course at the National Stud in Newmarket, the sheer range of opportunities throughout the industry which the Programme offered, and the success which many of its alumni had had in the industry; I was very keen to give an application a go.

And that is exactly the point of this Programme. It is not simply about giving ‘Racing people’ who have grown up involved in the sport a chance but also widening the net to try and encourage people from all walks of life to pursue a career in the industry. I was lucky enough, after a telephone interview and then assessment day in London in April 2011, to be offered a placement with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in the Communications and External Affairs Department, which represents the sport to Government and politicians. It was my dream placement – combining my interest in sport and politics, sprinkled with a little bit of media work.

First off however came an incredible two weeks in Newmarket with all of the other graduates. The 21 of us hit it off brilliantly – all with a shared interest in Racing for sure – but from all walks of life. The Programme was fantastic in offering me a crash-course on all aspects of the industry – from funding to racecourse management, breeding to promotion, and administration to rules and integrity. Combined with a few days at the races and more than a few nights out in Newmarket, it made for a memorable fortnight.

Then it was on to London for my eight-week placement – where I had the opportunity to visit the Houses of Parliament, participate in meetings where British Racing’s policy on key issues such as the Levy and Tote were formulated, and learn plenty from my colleagues about how the world of Racing works. This wasn’t like a placement where you were just asked to make the tea – but where you became fully involved as a proper member of the team. Make no mistake, you will have to put in the hours rather than simply turn up, pass the time and get the credit on your CV.

There is no guarantee of further employment after your eight week placement, but, if you put in the effort, there is a good chance that you will be given the opportunity to continue working in the industry, either in your placement position or in another role. Fellow grads on my course have gone on to find permanent employment in trainers’ yards, at bookmakers, racecourses, in promotional roles and in the Racing media.

After my eight weeks, I was offered a three-month extension, which then became a permanent contract offer in December 2011. I am still, 13 months later, working at the BHA Headquarters in London and have recently been promoted to the position of External Affairs Officer. I genuinely love my job. In the last year, I have attended the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals as part of the onsite Communications team responding to any incidents, organised Parliamentary receptions and briefed politicians for debates, and been sat in a tennis umpire’s chair for four hours on British Champions’ Day last year rallying the crowds heading in to see Frankel’s last race. Maybe they are not all glamorous jobs, but they have all been a lot of fun!

So, while it may not seem like an obvious choice, and maybe an industry you have ever thought of working in, it is certainly one which offers a variety of exciting opportunities. The Graduate Programme is a great way to get involved, regardless of your previous background, and has such a pedigree in the industry that it gives you an excellent platform from which to succeed. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

Applications for the 2013 BHA Graduate Development Programme close on Friday 15th February. For further information, including how you can apply, please visit the Careers in Racing website .
Careers in Racing