Shearing school boosts entry-level workforce

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Shearing trainee Alfred Thomas-Headley, front left, DPIRD business development officer Ashley Talbot, AWI trainers Amanda Davis and Kevin Gellatly, Aborignial mentor Ian Rivers, AWI trainer Todd Wegner and DPIRD officer Kevin May, Shearing trainees Manla-Rae King, back left, Haki Matchett, caterer Jackeuiline King, Shearing trainees Finba Ford, Aubrey Nelson, Sonny Kimura, Zane Long, Brodie Swankie and Stephen McCarthy, and DPIRD project officer Tony Gray.
Camera IconShearing trainee Alfred Thomas-Headley, front left, DPIRD business development officer Ashley Talbot, AWI trainers Amanda Davis and Kevin Gellatly, Aborignial mentor Ian Rivers, AWI trainer Todd Wegner and DPIRD officer Kevin May, Shearing trainees Manla-Rae King, back left, Haki Matchett, caterer Jackeuiline King, Shearing trainees Finba Ford, Aubrey Nelson, Sonny Kimura, Zane Long, Brodie Swankie and Stephen McCarthy, and DPIRD project officer Tony Gray. Credit: Michele Feineler/Michele Feineler

A Nungarin shearing school hub, held during the last two weeks, was hailed a success with near half the group of 13 trainees in pursuit of potential wool shed job placements.

Aboriginal trainee Stephen McCarthy, of Yelbeni, said it was the first time he had ever picked up a shearing handpiece.

“I really enjoyed the school, it was a good experience,” he said.

“It was amazing how quickly I learnt to shear.”

Shearer traineee Stephen McCarthy being watched by AWI trainer Todd Wegner.
Camera IconShearer traineee Stephen McCarthy being watched by AWI trainer Todd Wegner. Credit: Amanda Davis

Mr McCarthy said he shore 40 to 50 sheep and felt confident in his ability and would be following up with a Narembeen shearing contractor to seek work.

The school, held from March 8 to March 19 at Kim and Shay Creigh’s farm in Nungarin, was the first in a series of Statewide shearing camps in the eastern Wheatbelt.

It was organised by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, and supported by Australian Wool Innovation in an ongoing campaign to reinforce the wool shed workforce.

It follows the Government’s pilot camp held in Northampton in January 2020 which was repeated in August with successful camps held in Brookton and Wellstead.

DPIRD business development officer Ashley Talbot said there was a range of novice and learner shearing and woolhandling train-ees at Nungarin from the eastern Wheatbelt.

Aboriginal mentor Ian Rivers, AWI shearing trainers Amanda Davis, Kevin Gellatly and Todd Wegner and DPIRD project officer Tony Gray.
Camera IconAboriginal mentor Ian Rivers, AWI shearing trainers Amanda Davis, Kevin Gellatly and Todd Wegner and DPIRD project officer Tony Gray. Credit: Ashley Talbot

“The one-on-one instruction was valuable and by the second week all attendees had progressed and honed their skills and were ready to be available for the four to five local contractors in this region,” he said.

“Many of the students appreciated the local one-on-one instruction through this hub training, and were looking forward to be ready to fill the labour shortages in the industry.”

Mr Talbot said the department in partnership with the AWI trainers would follow up with the trainees to ensure they found work and had the necessary supports in place.

AWI trainer Kevin Gellatly said the raised floor, five-stand wool shed was a great training venue.

“During the 10 days, the students shore 857 green tag (1.5 years) ewes that averaged five to six kilograms of fleece,” he said.

“They also had training on woolhandling skills, handpiece maintenance, and we had discussions on safety, animal welfare, effective communications and life skills.”

Farm owner Kim Creigh said he was really pleased with how the students progressed and shore his Kolindale blood ewes very cleanly.

“There has been a decline in the shearing workforce for the past 20 years and this has been exasperated by COVID which has not allowed New Zealand shearers to work in WA,” he said.

“By hosting the camp, we did our bit in an attempt to bring new entry level people into the industry,” he said.

Labor MP Darren West, fourth left, handed out certificates of hours trained to the Nungarin shearing school trainees who completed 10 days of wool shed training.
Camera IconLabor MP Darren West, fourth left, handed out certificates of hours trained to the Nungarin shearing school trainees who completed 10 days of wool shed training. Credit: Amanda Davis/Amanda Davis

Labor MP Darren West handed the students handed certificates of their hours trained.

With ongoing wool shed staff shortages, WA Shearing Industry Association president Darren Spencer said it was great to see the continuation of the regional shearing school hubs.

“Nungarin gave the opportunity for trainees to attend a shearing school in their area,” he said.

“The movement of the hub to different regional areas allows local trainees to attend that may not be able to travel for family or cultural reasons.

“Funding from DPIRD and AWI make this training a reality and the support of contractors in these areas is valuable.”

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