THE WA shearing industry is hoping for some relief after the Department of Training and Workplace Development placed shearers, wool classers and wool handlers on its State Priority Occupation List (SPOL).
Achieving a spot on SPOL means further State Government funding can be made available to help train more people in the three occupations.
While there is a perception that the Australian shearer may soon be extinct and replaced by imported Kiwi, South African and Irish shearers, Food Fibre and Timber Industries Training Council (FFTITC) project manager Brad Armstrong said that was unlikely.
Mr Armstrong said although the WA shearing industry was calling out for migrant labour to be made available to help with a lack of workers, similar to what was done in the horticulture and fruit picking industries, it was a while off becoming reality.
"Getting the three jobs on the SPOL list is the first step in working towards that," he said.
Mr Armstrong said there were three parts that made up the SPOL list, the first being priority one level occupations, the second, priority two occupations and the third being an industry training priority occupations.
He said it was pleasing that two of those occupations were now on the industry training priority list with wool classing on the priority two list.
"What that means is these jobs will receive more State Government funding to go towards training and attracting more people," he said.
Mr Armstrong said to open the door to migrant labour, the jobs needed to be on the priority one list which feeds into the WA skilled migration occupation list.
He said to get onto that list there needed to be large numbers of employees in the occupation, and a large forecast growth for the industry.
"Unfortunately that makes it impossible for almost any agricultural occupation to make it onto that list," he said.
"Without making the list, the jobs won't automatically qualify for migration labour but it is something we will work towards."
Mr Armstrong said the FFTITC were happy to work with WAFarmers and the WA Shearing Industry Association (WASIA) on getting those three occupations included onto the priority one list to attract overseas labour.
WASIA president Darren Spencer welcomed the move as a partial win for the industry.
A shearing contractor himself, Mr Spencer said the number of shearers was not an issue, considering WA sheep flock numbers were down but the real concern was finding good quality, qualified shed staff.
Mr Spencer said migrant labour would be a huge help in solving the problem and was hopeful further communication between WASIA and the FFTITC would continue to try and ensure shearers, wool classers and wool handlers were moved up to a priority one level on the SPOL list.