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WoolTAG provides young shearers, woolhandlers with future opportunities

Past WoolTAG recipient Tom Brewer, Naracoorte, starred at the recent world shearing championships at Invercargill, New Zealand, placing fifth in the final of the intermediate section.

Tom completed his tafeSA Certificate II in shearing in 2014 – receiving $500 of shearing equipment to help him enter the workforce, thanks to the WoolTAG initiative. He completed his Certificate III in shearing in 2015.

Other recent WoolTAG recipients include shearers Brandon Waters, Warramboo, and Dane Frederickson, Tumby Bay, and woolhandler Laura Erickson, via Tailem Bend. They also flew to NZ on the weekend, as part of a sponsorship through Australian Wool Innovation, Heiniger, and Prime Super for them to compete in The Golden Shears at Masterton, and train alongside NZ shearers and woolhandlers.

WoolTAG stands for the Wool Training Advisory Group, a group that was launched in 2003. It is made up of members from all sections of the wool industry who generously give their time freely to advance the wool harvesting industry, with Livestock SA president Geoff Power the chair of the group.

Other members of the voluntary group include woolgrower Bruce Nutt, Iron Knob; shearing contractor Peter Smith, Stirling North; wool manufacturer and processor, Michell Australia’s Colin Donahue and Stephen Read; Australian Workers Union’s Lance Deganhardt; woolclasser Wendy Jones; tafeSA’s Colin Loffler, Glenn Haynes and Trish Colbey; Primary Industries Skills Council executive officer Mark Cody; PIRSA’s Michael Blake; shearer and grower David Brooker and broker Michael Sugars. Livestock SA also support the WoolTAG team with administration support.

Livestock SA recognises the critical role that shearers and woolhandlers play in this industry.

Getting young people into shearing sheds – and keeping them there – has been one of the toughest jobs facing the wool industry.

Unlike most other trades, shearers and woolclassers do not undertake a traditional apprenticeship, instead they must support themselves to undertake training and gain the necessary experience to work in the industry.

WoolTAG recognises the importance of the wool industry to the South Australian agricultural industry.

It is very important to encourage new entrants into what is a challenging but rewarding career path, and awarding newly graduated shearers, and woolhandlers, with some assistance to purchasing tools that will help to set them up, and remain in the industry is critically important.

The tool boxes help young tafeSA graduates to go into the industry with some assistance with tools that allow them to enter and most importantly be retained in industry.

At the last Royal Adelaide Show in September, 2016, 20 young shearers and 20 wool handlers who had recently received their Certificate II at tafeSA were gifted a $500 toolbox voucher for shearers and $200 for wool handlers.

Shearing equipment and training can cost several thousands of dollars upfront, and for those who are new to the industry, many combs and cutters can be broken. At $40 for a comb, this can add up quickly, but with the toolbox trainees have tools to use as they build their speed and earning potential.

The toolbox would not be possible without the generous financial contributions from sponsors AJ&PA McBride Pty Ltd; Michell Wool Pty Ltd; Pandurra Pastoral; the SA Sheep Industry Fund; Y-Not Shearing Contractors and Stockowners Shearing.

ANDREW CURTIS, Chief Executive Officer of Livestock SA

23 February 2017 Media Type: Column / Industry Dev: Wooltag / Policy Area: Sheep & wool /