Training hubs to boost shearing industry

Training hubs to boost shearing industry

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The program will cover crutching, shearing, wool clip preparation & pressing.

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NEW novice shearing hub camps this month and next will turn out another 20 trained shearers, pressers and wool handlers, but will not resolve Western Australia's spring shearing skilled worker shortage.

One hub camp at Northampton, back in Greg and Jane Teakle's shearing shed with local Mhunga Whalla Aboriginal group shearing contractor Bobby Pepper, is scheduled to finish tomorrow, Friday, August 28.

The second hub camp, in Robert Davy's shed on Grass Tree Hill farm, Wellstead, in the Great Southern, with contractor Mick Thomas, is scheduled to run from September 14-25.

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) shearing and wool handling trainers Kevin Gellatly and Amanda Davis are conducting both hub camps.

Their practical shearing and wool handling program covers skills and topics including crutching and shearing, wool clip preparation and pressing.

The State government is contributing up to $130,000, along with AWI funding, to run the two-week hub camps, claiming they will "help fill labour shortages in the shearing industry" and support Aboriginal employment.

The government claims about half of the graduates from two pilot hub camps earlier this year - one at Northampton in January and another at Brookton in March - have already found casual, part-time or full-time jobs in the industry.

WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said it was "a tremendous program that delivers relevant, practical training and support to young Aboriginal people in the regions - providing a sound foundation for them to build a career in this important industry".

"We've had great feedback about the pilot program from both the participants and employers, who have welcomed this investment in ensuring future labour availability," Ms MacTiernan said.

"The pilot worked closely with the Geraldton-based Mhunga Whalla group and the WA Shearing Industry Association (WASIA) to develop the program, which has been a great State, industry and community collaborative effort.

"This investment in the next generation of shearers and wool handlers is critical to provide a skilled workforce, reducing the reliance on imported labour highlighted by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic."

WASIA president and Lake Grace shearing contractor Darren Spencer welcomed the State government's contribution to shearer and shed hand training but said it wouldn't resolve the labour shortage this spring.

"Basically, it's the first money we've got out of the State government towards providing training in the shearing industry, so we're not going to knock it back," Mr Spencer said.

"But in terms of this spring and the skilled worker shortage, it's not a solution.

"Some of the graduates from Northampton and Brookton (and from a wool industry-run training school at Esperance in July) have joined teams - one from the Brookton hub is on one of my shearing teams and somebody else from Kulin I know is on a team.

"There's no doubt the hubs will help them (graduates) find jobs in the industry.

"It's up to contractors to pick them up and give them a chance - what they need now (after completing the hubs) is to gain experience.

"It's (hubs camp program) looking to the future, but if the industry can get some help out of it for this spring, well and good," he said.

As reported in Farm Weekly last week, most shearing contractors are resigned to completing spring shearing with the workforce they have now.

Attempting to bring shearers in from New Zealand or interstate just for spring shearing is considered uneconomic because of a 14-day quarantine period when they arrive and possibly also when they return home.

Ms MacTiernan has previously ruled out relaxing WA's hard borders to make it easier for shearers and trained wool handlers to enter.

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