YOUNG shearers were sweating in the heat of the Peel Feedlot shearing shed recently as they enhanced their shearing skills under the watchful eye and guidance of Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) trainer Kevin Gellatly.
The mid to high 30 degree temperatures didn't help much, but as they lined up alongside career shearers, contracting on behalf of Emmanuel Exports, they got a feel for what it was like in the industry when the pressure was on.
Seven Aboriginal trainee shearers participated in the 10-day pilot training program that was the brainchild of WA Shearing Industry Association (WASIA) president Darren Spencer and Emmanuel Exports corporate governance and compliance officer Holly Ludeman.
The pair discussed the need for more training opportunities for those who had already participated in State government supported shearing courses across WA and needed further mentorship.
Some of the students from previous courses have already found full-time employment.
Mr Spencer said with the offer by Ms Ludeman to hold the training at the Peel Feedlot, they approached Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan for some funding to be able to offer the course.
WASIA was provided a grant of about $48,000 and AWI funded the trainer to complete the team.
"It's a one-week improver course," Mr Spencer said.
"It's a pilot shearing school and we hope to have more in the future.
"We have four students from Geraldton, two from Brookton and one from Albany."
Mr Spencer said "Peel was a good location" as it provided "a good environment for students to see a lot of different sheep going through".
The students also visited the Westcoast Wool & Livestock stores.
A couple of the students said they had enjoyed the course and learnt new techniques that could make them faster and deliver a better result.
The course concluded on Friday, December 11, with a morning session on the shears and a lunch and award ceremony at Golden Ponds, Baldivis, attended by the full team, as well as Agricultural Region MLC Darren West and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development's Bruce Mullan and Ashley Talbot.
Mr West gave a short speech in which he said "in life we help people by giving them an opportunity".
He said the shearer training courses had been "a winner" and would be supported by the government next year as well (if the McGowan government was re-elected).
Dr Mullan said the sheep industry was a "really good industry" to be a part of and although a lot of sheep had been sent east this year, there was "still plenty of sheep in the system to shear and not enough shearers".
"There's plenty of opportunities ahead for those who want a career in the industry," Dr Mullan said.
Mr Gellatly said to make any money out of shearing, the participants would need to shear at least 80-100 sheep per day.
At $3 per head that would be $240-$300 per day.
Top shearers push through about 200 head a day for $600.
Each shearer needs to provide their own equipment and maintain it.
Mr Spencer said it was up to the students to put themselves out there and chase the work and not wait for contractors to call them.
He said there was still a shortage of shearers in WA and many would be working up to Christmas to keep up with the work.
Mr Spencer said he hoped more courses would be available next year and anyone interested in undertaking the training, regardless of ethnicity, should contact WASIA for information about future courses or opportunities.