Guyra Central School students and those involved in the Wool Works Shearing School trial at Glen Innes
Wool Works is a new shearing and wool handling program for secondary school students that has just been trialled by Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI) at the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Glen Innes Agricultural Research and Advisory Station. Organisers and students declared the trial a success with many organisations working together to make the initiative a reality. There is hope by those involved that it could become the most consistent and ongoing shearing school approach in Northern NSW.
The one-day intensive school was a team effort between RDANI, NSW DPI, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services, TAFE New England, Glen Innes Severn Council, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and Heiniger. The Wool Works trial day saw Year 9 and 10 students from Guyra Central School learn about animal husbandry, biosecurity, workplace health and safety, wool and sheep handling as well as trying their hand at shearing.
RDANI Chair Russell Stewart said the Wool Works Shearing School trial was a great opportunity to showcase this exciting industry to the region’s up and coming workforce. “Keeping quality young people in the bush, providing them with opportunities to learn and work where they live should be top priorities for all communities across the region,” he said. “The students that participated in this trial today are a real credit to their school, community and their families. They showed a keen interest in the industry and were willing to get in, have a go and ask questions.”
Thanks to Australian Wool Innovation, experienced shearers Ross Thompson and Leo Fittler instructed, supervised and also commended the attentive local students. “If you can shear a sheep and do some crutching, you’ve got handy skills for the rural industry. It’s also a great profession to consider for travelling and even students going on to university can use shearing shed skills to pay their way,” Mr Thompson said. “Providing introductory skills in shearing and wool handling to high school students and nurturing their interest is a unique approach and one that is important for the future of the industry.”
“AWI and TAFE have done a lot, but what we’re trying to get going is more consistent, reliable training for the north of the state. Shearing is a trade. Just like if you’re a builder, sparky or plumber, you’re looking at four years before you know what you’re doing and six before you’re hitting your peak. The shearing school is a great introduction,” he said.
Guyra Central School Agriculture Teacher Scott Miller said that Wool Works was an important experience for his students, like Year 9 Agriculture student Steph Cameron. “This shearing school is a really great idea for kids who want to have a career in shearing, wool handling or anything like that,” she said. “I grew up on a property. My Dad’s a shearer and I roustabout with him. Yet, I learned a lot!”
Taylor Brennan from Year 10 appreciated having an experienced shearer supervising him as he sheared a sheep. “He told me all the angles and techniques that I had to use. It was really good,” he said.
The Wool Works Shearing School trial was a big step forward, according to RDANI Executive Officer Nathan Axelsson. “This event showed us just how effective rural and regional communities can be when industry and community leaders work together with schools and government agencies to achieve a common goal,” he said. “We particularly appreciated the contributions of NSW DPI, Nigel Brown LLS District Veterinarian, Pauline Smith at TAFE New England, John Newsome of Elders Glen Innes who kindly provided the sheep, the Lions Club of Glen Innes for catering and especially Guyra Central School”.
“The Wool Works trial demonstrated that the shearing school can work at the host venue, the Glen Innes Agricultural Research and Advisory Station, which is a tremendous asset to the region.”
Mr. Axelsson is now optimistic that the successful trial will see school groups from across northern NSW flocking to Glen Innes for the Wool Works Shearing and Wool handling School into the future.