New Racing Centre learning facility unveiled

Students embarking on a new course offered by the National Association of Racing Staff (NARS) were given a preview of their new learning facility at the Racing Centre in Newmarket on Friday evening 7th September when it was formally opened by the Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and Member of Parliament for West Suffolk.

The new NARS learning centre will build skills in the industry
Back to the classroom - (l-r) Kevin Parsons, Nick Rust, The Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock MP and George McGrath put the new IT Suite to the test.

The Racing Centre is a social hub in the heart of the town serving stud and stable staff and the wider community, and is the headquarters of the National Association of Racing Staff who have been providing a range of training courses from the venue since 2013.  The latest addition is a 12-week ILM Level 2 course in Mentoring, Leadership and Team Skills delivered by West Suffolk College.

Speaking at its launch Mr Hancock, who opened the Racing Centre’s first IT Suite in 2013 said;

This project combines many things that I love.  This facility historically has been here for racing, and for stable staff in particular, and the first training facilities added a new dimension.”

It‘s good for racing, good for Newmarket and most importantly it’s good for the opportunities of everyone who works in this town and I pay tribute to that.” 

Among many racing personalities joining Mr Hancock at the evening reception was British Horseracing Authority Chief Executive, Nick Rust.

Nick said,

Our fantastic sport is on an upward curve in many, many respects and that is largely down to the hard and excellent work of the 17,000 people working in this sport. Around 7,000 - 8,000 of whom are employed day-to-day looking after our equine stars.

Sometimes those individuals, their profession and the work they do is seen as a role that is not as important as some others in life.  I think it’s the job of our industry to continue to recognise that and to continue to work to develop facilities which help make the lives of those individuals better.  It’s also important that we invest in the communities that racing is a part of and this now will be a fantastic development for this community in Newmarket which is to be welcomed.” 

Funding for the extensive refurbishment which includes a new fully equipped IT Suite, multi-purpose classrooms, meeting rooms and small conference facilities, has come from the Moller Trust and unionlearn, the learning and skills organisation of the Trades Union Congress. Leading independent bookmaker, JenningsBet, has pledged £100,000 over the next five years to support the new course which begins with a fully subscribed intake on 14 September.

Kevin Parsons, Union Learn Project Manager and Sports Coordinator at NARS said,

Since we opened in 2013 over 500 staff taken part in our courses and refreshed or gained qualifications in English, Maths and Computer Skills and recently we have had foreign staff taking part in our English Speaking courses, improving their speaking, listening, reading and writing. It has helped with ongoing development, helping them develop as people, learning and gaining confidence along the way.

Going forward in addition to our existing courses we will have the new Mentoring, Leadership and Team Skills course and we already have 20 people signed up and have had to turn people away.  It will provide racing staff with an extra qualification and we are hoping that having a trained and qualified mentor in the yard will help to retain staff in the industry.” 

NARS CEO and Acting Chairman of The Racing Centre, George McGrath, believes the new facilities at will help to enhance the Racing Centre’s reputation as the local central hub for social events, exercise and learning and paid tribute to the project’s many supporters.  He said,

When you look around the new classrooms and at the old facilities we had upstairs and it shows how much progress we have made.

I want to say thank you very much to our sponsors.  JenningBet approached me about a year ago and asked for suggestions about how they could put something back into racing and I’ve always been passionate about education and between us Kevin and I came up with this project. The Moller Trust made the building renovations possible and unionlearn have supported us all the way.  It is their mission in life to take people, give them an education, another chance or a start and they have been fantastic and provided all the furniture and laptops.”