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Shearing School Upskills Tamworth High-Schoolers

Tamworth high school students put their hands up for shearer training, Leo Fittler and Matt Cumming were two of four industry veterans who delivered at the Wool Works Shearing School.
Tamworth high school students put their hands up for shearer training, Leo Fittler and Matt Cumming were two of four industry veterans who delivered at the Wool Works Shearing School.

A shearing shed became a classroom for 16 students from Tamworth and Peel High schools this week. The agriculture students put their hands up to get some free basic training in shearing and wool handling. The Wool Works Shearing School is an initiative of Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI) that is addressing a skill shortage by introducing high school students to wool industry skills.

“Our rural employers are crying out for skilled workers and our teenagers are not always aware of the rewarding well-paying jobs and training options that are out there. We are in contact with the stakeholders, the woolgrowers and the shearers. The industry has given our Wool Works Shearing School two thumbs up,” said RDANI Chair Russell Stewart.

“Students at our latest Wool Works Shearing School ranged from years nine to 11. They were clearly engaged because the shearing school is very much hands-on and that’s the idea,” said RDANI Executive Director Nathan Axelsson.

“Most previous Wool Works Shearing Schools have been run at Glen Innes and it is great to broaden the agricultural skills and experience of young people in the Tamworth and North West side of our region,” he said.

“We were fortunate to be able to utilise the facilities at the Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council’s Trelawney Station near Somerton. It is an ideal venue with fantastic accommodation and catering facilities.”

“RDANI co-ordinates the Wool Works Shearing Schools but we could not do it alone. The collaborations that make them possible are a big part of their success,” Mr. Axelsson said. “We had valued supported from TAFE NSW, Australian Wool Innovation and the Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council, with grant funding from the NSW Government SCCF (Stronger Country Communities Fund). Most importantly, we had the expertise and experience of veteran shearers and wool handlers providing the training.”

“Our trainers were Leo Fittler, Matt Cumming, Ross Thompson and Kim Jenkins as trainers. They all have many years of experience in the wool industry, shearing, wool handling and training. They were able to convey a great deal in a matter of days, due to the practical approaches taken in our shearing schools.”

“This was not just an escape from school for a few days. We really put the students to work. At the end of the week, we had shorn over 100 sheep, kindly arranged by Thomas Foods International.”

“There is a real shortage of shearers and rural workers generally at the moment. So, these skills can genuinely translate to employment,” he said. “Shearing and crutching are skills in demand and once qualified, you can earn good money. It’s work that can result in travel as well as good paying jobs in the local area.”  

“Local young people keen to work in our agricultural sector need a broad skill-set to be valuable contributors to local farm businesses. Just by demonstrating that, we are doing something important but every participant who might go on to further shearing training is a big win because looking to the future, the skills shortage in the wool industry is a concern,” Mr. Axelsson said.

More short shearing schools are planned throughout the region in 2022.


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