Skilling up shearers

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Badgingarra farmer Todd Kenny is one of the young beginner shearers who aims to improve his skills at the upcoming shearing school that his family is hosting at their Rubicon woolshed.
Camera IconBadgingarra farmer Todd Kenny is one of the young beginner shearers who aims to improve his skills at the upcoming shearing school that his family is hosting at their Rubicon woolshed. Credit: Countryman

Two shearing schools taking place in two very different parts of WA this month have been synchronised to try and get graduates straight into jobs in time to help with the spring shearing season.

A two-week school started at Condingup’s Epasco Farms property on Monday — attracting 13 students to learn from Australian Wool Innovation shearer trainers Kevin Gellatly, Todd Wegner and Amanda Davis.

A similar school will be held at the Kenny family’s Badgingarra farm from July 19 to 30 with the hope both will boost the number of learner shearers in WA.

But even when the graduates are out in the workforce, it is a bit of an unknown as to whether there will continue to be critical staff shortages during the State’s upcoming peak shearing period, from August to November.

The State’s $800 million wool industry has always relied on attracting more experienced shearers from overseas, mainly New Zealand, but those international imports have been hampered by COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions during the past 18 months.

Many WA shearing contractors have had to improvise to get the sheep shorn during the past 18 months, with an increase in the number of both older and younger shearers on the boards.

Dongara-based Henderson Shearing contractor Mike Henderson will facilitate the Badgingarra school this month.

More than 15 students are expected to take part, including seven Indigenous youngsters.

Mr Henderson said new shearers were desperately needed across the industry, and two of his most long-standing shearers officially retired in January.

“I am confident WA will have a safe WA and New Zealand travel bubble, but if we can’t get overseas shearers, things will be tough — I usually employ up to five Kiwis,” he said.

“I suggested having the school in July was well-timed to give students an opportunity to gain employment shortly after in the spring.

The school will instruct learners the first week and improvers the second week.”

WA’s ban on New Zealand travellers is expected to lift this Friday to allow two-way quarantine-free travel through the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble.

Todd Kenny, whose family is hosting the school, will be one of the many shearers taking part in the improver’s school.

“I began shearing early this year after completing a training school at Rylington Park in February,” he said.

“I will be working as a full-time shearer in the spring and I’m planning to shear in New Zealand in the summer and enjoy the travel experience.”

The Badgingarra school is the sixth organised by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development project officer Tony Gray and funded by Australian Wool Innovation since January last year.

Two schools have been held at Northampton, while others were held at Brookton, Wellstead and Nungarin.

DPIRD business development officer Ashley Talbot said Badgingarra would be a “case study” to get the timing right for future hubs.

Epasco farm manager Nick Ruddenklau said hosting the AWI funded school was a way of giving back to the industry.

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