Recent university graduates with a connection to wool have been encouraged to put themselves forward for a leadership training program, with applications set to open on August 1. The annual Australian Wool Innovation Graduate Training Program, established in 2018, provides successful applicants with a thorough understanding of the wool supply chain from fibre to fashion. The 18-month program starts each year in March and is based primarily at the AWI office in Sydney, where the graduates gain exposure to many areas of the AWI business. These include on-farm research, processing innovation and education extension, consultation and engagement, global marketing, digital, measurement and evaluation and business services. Graduates are given the opportunity to gain global exposure to the wool supply chain through two international rotations. The program also provides the graduates with ongoing professional training and development opportunities, to further enhance their career within the industry. AWI chief executive John Roberts said the program had unearthed some fantastic young people who are now planning long careers in the wool industry. “Having worked with the past and current graduates, I’ve seen firsthand the value of having such an all-encompassing program within the industry, covering the full supply chain, and the benefits it provides the successful graduates in enhancing their career within wool,” he said. “We continue to focus on attracting and retaining the top talent and the program is just one of the mechanisms we have in creating a talent pipeline and future proofing human resources in the industry.” This year, AWI selected two graduates including Kate Rice and Harrison Dunning. Ms Rice, who was originally from Parkes in central NSW, said the program had given her a unique opportunity to combine an interest in agriculture and the wool industry with her love for textiles and design. “Coming from a wool-growing family, it has been an amazing experience to witness the supply chain in action from the farm gate to end garment,” she said. “The program so far has presented me with various hands-on learning experiences to see what we as a company can do support Australian growers and their wool.” Mr Dunning, who hails from Sydney, found his way to the graduate program through a keen interest in sustainable food and fibre production. “The experience gained through the AWI graduate program has been invaluable in developing a comprehensive understanding of the wool supply chain and expanding my networks throughout the industry,” he said. “A personal highlight in my first rotation as a part of the research team was witnessing the journey of research from inception to development to extension and the profound outcomes that can be achieved to assist woolgrowers. “I look forward to moving throughout the rest of the organisation focusing on the roles that education, innovation and marketing play in increasing global demand and fostering a positive future for wool.” Four of the graduates who have already completed the program are still employed by AWI. Program graduate Miles Barritt, who was selected in 2019 after completing an education at the University of WA, is now AWI’s Wool Q and Traceability project manager. He grew up on a Broomehill sheep and grain farm where his parents Doug and Carol run 7000 Merino sheep, along with his brother James. Mr Barritt said his family’s toil on the land had inspired him to work diligently at his education and contribute his knowledge to the wool industry. Former Frankland River-based AWI industry relations officer Ellie Bigwood was also a graduate of the program and was the first to take on the newly created role in WA from 2021 to 2022. Other former program graduates included Emma Murphy who is currently employed as AWI trade marketing officer, George Lehmann who took up a position as AWI project coordinator for training and education, and Tom Hersee who’s the project coordinator for industry development. Last year’s graduate Chris Watt is in the final stages of his program. Applications for the AWI Graduate Training Program close August 31.