More aim to click the shears

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Hayley Barker, 17, gets to work inside a busy shearing shed at Witchcliffe, just past Margaret River.
Camera IconHayley Barker, 17, gets to work inside a busy shearing shed at Witchcliffe, just past Margaret River. Credit: Daniel Wilkins

Soaring wool prices and a perceived “jobs boom” have led to unprecedented interest in shearing, WA’s peak body for the trade says.

WA Shearing Industry Association president Darren Spencer said the group had fielded a big number of inquiries about entering the industry during the past six months.

He believes the interest has been sparked by media reports about a shearing shortage and burgeoning wool prices.

“We have had a lot of people approach us about entering the industry for the first time,” he said.

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“But also a lot of people who haven’t been in the industry for a long time and are thinking about going back to it.”

Australian wool production jumped 5.3 per cent last financial year with a 14 per cent increase in the value of wool exports, breathing new life into one of Australia’s famous professions, with females and males making their way to work in sheds across WA.

Mr Spencer, who runs his own shearing contracting business, said while shearers were in high demand, many contractors were reluctant to hire inexperienced people. He urged people interested in shearing to complete a course, such as the free one held at Rylington Park, Mayanup, to boost their skills.

The course covers preparing for shearing and crutching, managing wool-harvesting operations, wool-classing technical aspects, documentation and other topics.

“Those kind of courses give you a good grounding for being in a shed environment,” he said. “Some people also start out working in the shed and might get a stand when they are a bit short on staff.”

The association held its annual general meeting last weekend, at the Perth & Tattersalls Bowling Club, East Perth.

On the agenda was a talk by WAFarmers chief executive Trent Kensett-Smith about the live export market and what impact closing the trade would have on shearers.

Mr Spencer said farmers and shearers were thinking any halt in the trade would lead to less work.

“We’d probably end up with a lot less sheep in WA,” he said.

Other speakers pegged for the conference include RSM Australia’s Trent Frost, who will talk about changes to payroll, business and accounting practices.

Shebiz shearing industry software providers’ Lisa Wardill will speak about workers’ compensation and returning to work post-injury.

There will be an equipment update from Heiniger, and the WA shearing association will highlight its upcoming shearing shed safety program, being developed with industry partners.

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