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Shearer and wool handling training schools change to meet ongoing industry needs in 2024

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Aidan SmithCountryman
The top four finishers at the Dinninup Upper Blackwood Sports Shear Novice Shear were Shaun Walker (4th), Brodie Hill (3rd), Kayla De Villiers (2nd) and Cooper McCush (1st).
Camera IconThe top four finishers at the Dinninup Upper Blackwood Sports Shear Novice Shear were Shaun Walker (4th), Brodie Hill (3rd), Kayla De Villiers (2nd) and Cooper McCush (1st). Credit: Supplied/Supplied/AWI

Australian Wool Innovation is planning changes to its shearer and wool handling training schools next year to meet ongoing industry needs. It comes after it held a wider range of training schools throughout 2023 to meet wool harvesting demands.

AWI’s new Shearer and Wool Handler Training co-ordinator in WA, WA Shearing Industry Association executive officer Valerie Pretzel, said the AWI Training Team was “busy planning the schedule for 2024” and working with industry to tailor the training to the coming season and beyond.

“This year we have run 19 courses from January through to mid-December, ranging from Esperance, Lake Grace to Boyup Brook, Boddington and Muresk and up to Badgingarra,” Ms Pretzel said.

“Next year we are looking to ensure an even better regional spread.”

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AWI provides all the funding for the training courses and aims to provide training at all levels and stages of career and skill development.

“This year we added entry level wool handling workshops because the industry was telling us that resourcing shed hands was an issue,” she said.

WA Shearing Industry Association executive officer Valerie Pretzel.
Camera IconWA Shearing Industry Association executive officer Valerie Pretzel. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

AWI Wool Harvesting Training and Careers Development national manager Craig French said the organisation was pleased to be able to add two training events with Muresk College this year, running a two-day crutching school for the first time in WA, as well as a five-day novice course.

“We also added entry level wool handling workshops through to an advanced industry day for professional development hosted by Rhodes Pastoral in Boyup Brook,” Mr French said.

“This was in addition to our ongoing schedule of novice courses and improver schools.”

He said the courses couldn’t be run without the help of growers making their sheds and sheep available and shearing contractors co-ordinating with their clients.

AWI WA industry relations officer Jodie King at the Harvey Agricultural College for the accredited wool handling certificate course.
Camera IconAWI WA industry relations officer Jodie King at the Harvey Agricultural College for the accredited wool handling certificate course. Credit: Supplied/supplied/AWI

AWI industry relations officer in WA Jodie King said since her appointment in September she had witnessed firsthand the benefit of AWI grower fund investment back into the wool harvesting space.

“Attending many Sports Shear events recently, I have seen the high level of novice entrants which is a real positive step for our industry,” Ms King said.

“There is so much skill needed to compete at this level and AWI trainers work hard to support our novice competitors, this includes covering entry fees and offering AWI-funded wool harvesting workshops.

“Competing in Sports Shear events complements the work AWI is doing with novice wool harvesters, skill is improved and fine-tuned, and this then benefits the grower, and supports the Australian wool supply chain.”

Muresk novice shearing course with AWI trainers Kevin Gellatly (front) and Damien Boyle demonstrating.
Camera IconMuresk novice shearing course with AWI trainers Kevin Gellatly (front) and Damien Boyle demonstrating. Credit: Supplied/supplied/AWI

This year AWI trainers have been visiting high schools, often with local contractors, to demonstrate shearing and wool handling and to talk about career pathways.

Mr French said it was “important that we interest, inspire, and encourage young people into wool harvesting”, and AWI was investing heavily in training to attract the next generation of wool harvesting workers.

“We worked with WA WoolTAG and WASIA to appoint young WA Ambassadors Ethan Harder and Ethan Gellatly to talk to young people and inspire them to join our industry,” he said.

Ms King said engaging and educating students had led many agriculture college students to successfully line-up holiday work with local shearing teams, which was “fantastic to see”.

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