The Ontario Equine Education & Employment Program (OEEEP) is a training program where participants have a chance to gain experience and learn fundamental skills to start their careers in the equine industry. The eight-week virtual training course teaches participants about the care and welfare of horses from industry experts. In addition, a job placement is waiting at the end of the program, which is completely free to employee candidates and offers businesses a pool of enthusiastic graduates who are eager to learn and already have a solid base of horse care knowledge.
Employers involved in the program benefit not only from being able to hire on much-needed help who already have important skills, but also enjoy financial breaks. The program will subsidize the employee’s wages at $15.00 per hour for the first 70 hours and $250 per week for the next four weeks as they settle into their new jobs.
This program was created by the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA) in partnership with the Ontario government through the Ministry of Labour and is supported by Equine Guelph through their online training on TheHorsePortal.ca and the EquineJobTrack.ca site which lists available positions. Courses are free and upon completion, enthusiastic graduates are matched with equine businesses in need of staff.
OEEEP program benefits include:
- Filling open job positions in a post-Covid atmosphere where it is tough to find employees.
- Helping candidates discover different career paths in the industry they may not have known existed.
- Developing local talent to solidify the future of Ontario’s equine industry.
A new “Equine JobTrack Pathways to Careers” interactive website is in the works, scheduled for launch in the fall. In the meantime, watch the video from OEEEP graduate Susan Walker and check out some of the career paths that are available in the equine industry:
1. Graduate of Ontario Equine Education and Employment Program – SUSAN WALKER
2. Professional Rider – Jacquie Brooks
3. Registered Massage Therapist Marguerite Old
4. Racetrack Veterinarian – Dr. Melissa McKee
Anne Porteous, owner of Sierra Acres, an equine assisted learning centre in Rockwood, Ontario, heard about OEEEP while doing a consultation with an equine farm owner in London. An educator and facilitator who obtained her diploma in Equine Science from the University of Guelph, she hired a student graduate from the program “to promote the horse industry; promote the number of opportunities available ‒ i.e., equine assisted learning programs ‒ and because I enjoy teaching and working with those willing to learn.”
Natasha and Shawn Steacy of Steacy Racing heard about the program through chatting with Ashley Macdonald, OHHA Placement and Program Co-ordinator, at Mohawk racetrack. “She had asked us if we would like to be a part of the program and take on students who were ready to join a barn to work,” said Natasha. “We decided to give it a shot; it was nice knowing the students were coming in wanting to learn and get involved because they joined the program to become grooms and work with horses.”
The Steacys were very pleased with the experience. “The first girl we had was great; we loved having her around. She came in not knowing a thing and had never been around horses and she worked her way up, learning everything and was so willing and so pleasant to be around. We asked her to come on full time, but she had to take another placement that was closer for her, as we were a 45-minute drive, which we understood. We were very sad to see her go – she was a joy to have around, which really lacks in this industry sometimes.”
The couple took advantage of the subsidized wages, “as it helped. It’s a great thing they are doing to help us stables out and get more grooms out there and have people take a chance on them.”
Natasha concluded, “We are very happy with the process – we just got a new student today and she seems very willing to learn and just jumped right in where we needed her!”
Program graduate Laura Sliter was placed with Mitch Tierney Racing as a groom at their Standardbred facility. “I decided to take the course because I was looking for a job in the horse industry that I could actually have as full-time employment,” she explained. “Even for someone who has been around horses their whole life and took a two-year program about them, I learned so much from this course! It was so in-depth and useful. I would recommend it to anyone with a passion for horses!”
Gayle Ecker, Director at Equine Guelph, said, “We are proud to be part of this important program to help people get into the industry by taking a basic introductory course, and then linking those that want to get started in the industry with employers looking for staff. We also encourage our students to be ‘always the student’ as they can learn more and create career pathways. This is an important connection to bring more people into our horse industry and the partnerships with the Government of Ontario, OHHA, VPI and Equine Guelph, at the University of Guelph make this a unique program. We thank the Ontario Government for the funding to help us get this program up and running so quickly and look forward to opportunities and discussions to keep this going for our future industry development.”
“There is always more to learn about horse health, well-being and safety along with learning about the many fulfilling careers in the horse industry and that is an important part of the program to show off those careers and to link employees and employers through Equine JobTrack.”
If you are a business owner who would like more information about the program and how it works, check out this free Information Session entitled OEEEP for Businesses HERE. (Passcode: 4?k8%VL$)