Shearer spreads the skills

The West Australian

In his 52 years as a shearer, Kevin Gellatly has seen many changes, innovations and trends in the wool industry.

Born in Morawa, Mr Gellatly mainly worked in the Perenjori area for most of his career and was recently inducted into the Australian Shearers Hall of Fame.

Year 10, 11 and 12 students at the WA College of Agriculture - Morawa, were privileged to have Mr Gellatly and co-worker Amanda Davis - a well-qualified and experienced trainer and assessor and wool classer with a strong family background in the wool industry - instruct them over an eight-day period recently, in the many facets of wool production.

The collaboration was an initiative of Australian Wool Innovations, the wool levy-funded company responsible for delivering research, development and marketing for the Australian wool industry.

Mr Gellatly said the best thing about the classes was they were funded by the farmers themsel- ves.

"It's all about research and development and the farmers are investing back into the industry, helping maintain and develop its future," he said.

"We aim to teach students about shearing and wool handling and presenting the wool for the best return.

"But we also focus on reinforcing respect - respect for themselves, the others in the shed, the animals, the college, the equipment and their future employees - it's important they take ownership of their work environment."

Work ethic, teamwork and following instructions were cornerstones of the course, Mr Gellatly said.

"Passing on skills to these students, watching them evolve from when they first arrive and, as they achieve milestones, watching their confidence and sense of achievement grow is very rewarding," he said.

"We try to make outcomes achievable, we break down the components of shearing into small individual milestones - first leg, long blow etc, then the belly last - this help gives students confidence in their abilities and what they are capable of learning."

Mr Gellatly and Ms Davis hope while working the shed, students can develop an added interest in wool production.

"We want students to realise that there are other career pathways in the wool industry, not just shearing," Mr Gellatly said.

"There are 39,000 different types of jobs that revolve around wool - you can travel to 37 countries that have jobs associated with the production of wool, because there are so many and varied opportunities."

Over the eight days, college students sheared more then 600 sheep and prepared the fleeces for market.

These classes aim to increase the number of students keen to enter the industry, as well as encouraging those already shearing to develop their skills to the highest level.

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