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Mustering Up the Next Generation of Wool Shed Workers

At a time when COVID-19 travel restrictions have caused a shearer shortage in parts of rural NSW, we are working to ‘muster’ the next generation of shed workers, through a $60,000 State Government grant under the Stronger Country Communities Fund to conduct a number of wool handling schools at Glen Innes.
The funding was announced by Northern Tablelands MP and Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall earlier this month and he said if ever there was a time to bleat about the need to train new shearers, it was now.

“Through its Wool Works Shearing School at the Glen Innes Agriculture Research Station, RDA Northern Inland is showing local high-school students the exciting and rewarding career opportunities which exist on the floor of a wool shed,” Mr Marshall said.  “A fall in sheep numbers and the physical nature of shed work has led to a decline in people entering the industry in recent years, this has meant wool growers have had to rely on shearing teams from inter-state and New Zealand to get their wool clip off.”

“Through its wool handling schools RDA Northern Inland is getting locals back in the shed and will put this grant towards conducting four, three-day courses for secondary school students over the next twelve months. “The funds will cover the cost of hiring expert trainers, purchasing equipment while subsidising student’s transport, accommodation and catering.”

“I called in to one of these schools last year and it was humbling to see some of our area’s best shearers encouraging and teaching students these age-old skills. Our region was built on the sheep’s back and hopefully over time we will start to see more teenagers inspired to pick up the shears and pursue a career in the sector.”  

The grant will give more than 100 young people hands on experience working in a wool shed.  “In 2016, we conducted research which found approximately 200 new shearers need to be trained to enter the industry on an annual basis,” said RDA-NI Executive Director, Nathan Axelsson. “At a local level, we could see the shortage of skilled shearers in the New England was beginning to impact our premier super fine and ultra-fine wool growers.”

“Since 2017, we have run four successful shearing schools with more than 100 participants, working with NSW DPI and a number of other farming groups to expose young people to the various components of wool growing, including wool handling, animal health and husbandry. COVID-19 has impacted our classes in 2020, however we hope to be back at the stand for the first of the four shearing schools in September, with follow up courses in November this year and March/April next year.”

Further information about our shearing schools is available on the Shearing School page our website. Any schools that would like to be involved can contact our office to express their interest by email on rdani@rdani.org.au.

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