There was a huge sense of achievement and no little relief that overtures and entreaties from the BHA, TBA and NTF to the Home Office through the Migration Advisory Committee, in respect of the needs of the thoroughbred industry for skilled equine-care occupations, have resulted in six key roles being admitted to the Immigration Salary List.

As such, recruitment now can be directed internationally in addition to the domestic market. Thank you to the TBA and NTF members who wrote to their MPs.

The six key roles that the government added to the list are: racing groom, work rider, stallion handler, stud groom, stud hand and stud handler. The occupations are listed on the government website under Animal Care Workers, with a SOC code of 6129. Personnel recruited under this scheme attract minimum salary levels, plus relocation costs agreed between employer and employee.

So, good news then, as there should be a larger pool from which to counter the critical labour and skills shortages throughout racing and breeding in training yards and on stud farms.

The TBA will prepare educational material to aid members who might want to consider this opportunity. However, we cannot and should not think this is the solution to current recruitment problems. It will not provide for every vacancy nor be suitable for every employer.

The real answer, and the only one that is ultimately sustainable, is to provide career opportunities, recruit domestically, reward and offer progression. British racing, in all parts and levels, should be regarded as a career opportunity, not just a job.

In my dictionary, ‘career’ is defined as “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life with opportunities for progress”, whereas a ‘job’ is “a paid position of employment.” They are quite different and have very distinct outcomes and consequences for both employer and employee.

The career encourages ownership and opportunity, whilst the job is just a means to an end to achieve a living. There must be a mindset change to aspire to the former, as within any industry all good-to-great initiatives begin by confronting the brutal facts of their current reality and acting upon them.

What to do then? Here we have a world-class activity continuing at present to deliver at all levels – breeding, training, iconic racecourses and races, many of which are recognised and have value the world over. Yet our domestic labour pool cannot be persuaded in sufficient numbers about the opportunity and joy of working in an envied activity with legacy, theatre, colour and excitement. Why?

Much of the answer comes down to money and investment. In almost every area the metrics of British racing are in decline, and when a prospective employee considers a career in the industry, they reasonably ask questions that provide negative answers, and turn away.

The industry collectively recognises that funding is the most critical question it faces, but once the stakeholders are separated and self-interest begins to rule, the big picture becomes a snapshot, and the status quo continues.

Of all the assets any company or industry values most highly, its people are No. 1, and breeding and racing must have an employment initiative front and centre. Conditions are difficult enough with seasonal working and unsocial hours, before the universal trials of inflation, mortgages and just getting by make the job even harder.

So, nothing should be taken for granted in recognising the need to improve conditions and rewards under which the industry’s people deliver day in, day out. The need for a radical solution to the declining finances of British racing is imperative to provide the platform to rebuild and invest in every area, especially in the people who turn up every day to ensure the show stays on the road.

That solution is at hand, with the BHA’s Industry People Board finalising a strategy. It will take vision, courage and pain to deliver and there will be casualties along the way, but unless the opportunity is grasped, with so many challenges upon so many fronts, this great industry might follow the poem ‘For Want of a Nail’.