Plans to ease grooms shortage - Some 35 recruits to be trained - McKay
A SHORTAGE of quality grooms at Caymanas Park, recently highlighted by their association's president, Fabian White, drew mixed reactions on the STAR's Facebook page, prompting a response from Jason McKay, whose company has sponsored the scholarship programme for grooms' children for the last 15 years.
"Some people might have misunderstood what Fabian was saying," said McKay. "There has been a shortage of quality grooms because of the education programme that McKay Security offers to children of this set of workers at Caymanas Park, which led to them choosing school over grooming horses," he explained.
"The programme was introduced because we realised what was occurring was generational poverty, caused by generational illiteracy. The programme was designed that cost should not serve as an impediment for children of grooms to get an education," added McKay, whose company has provided security services at Caymanas Park since 1994.
"In the 15 years since the programme has been operating, each year the number of boys following their fathers into grooming has decreased. The hereditary practice of teaching the trade from one generation to another has ceased.
Older grooms on the Caymanas Park property trace their professional lineage back to the 1940s even before the St Catherine racetrack was opened in 1959, many being third and fourth-generation grooms, largely, at best, the holders of basic education.
"We knew this shortage would have happened, which is why we are now implementing a safeguard in the very same communities from which these kids are from, not from the hereditary line but others who would not have benefitted from the education programme," McKay pointed out.
A total of 35 such persons have been chosen and are to attend a grooms' seminar at the Knutsford Court hotel in St Andrew, organised by McKay Security, at which racing personnel such as trainers' association president Vin Edwards will make presentations.
Edwards, a licensed trainer since 1974, said he will be lecturing on social grace, hygiene and safety wear at the seminar.
"We want to have these persons well presented, especially with the racetrack now being in private hands," said Edwards.
McKay said the bigger picture was the crime affecting informal communities near the racetrack, areas from which numerous grooms originate.
"These persons will fill the void left by grooms' children. Their children, in turn, will benefit from the education programme," he explained, adding that the idea is to cut the umbilical cord attaching poverty to crime," he said.
"The whole programme was set up by McKay Security so that the unemployable of the informal settlements near Caymanas Park would choose racehorse grooming rather than crime. Never again should the practice of generational poverty and illiteracy be allowed to continue in these areas."
Cost, McKay said, is not a deterrent though, "for university-level education, which doesn't happen as often as high school, there are special considerations".
"We have never really set an annual budget. Once we get a school voucher and it's for a groom, we normally pay. All other vouchers for primary and high school are paid," he pointed out.