In a bid to fast track youth into the career of shearing and wool handling, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) are offering wool harvesting workshops to a number of regional NSW high schools in 2022.
It's a first for the shearing industry and one which AWI program manager for wool harvesting, training and development Craig French hopes will be rolled out in other states if proven a success.
"In NSW in particular, where 40 per cent of the flock comes from, we needed to look at doing more work locally with schools," Mr French said.
"We have to try and get young people interested before they leave school.
"AWI has had success with the schools Merino Wether Challenge so it makes sense to try for the shearing sheds as well."
Proposed to 65 regional NSW high schools through expressions of interest (EOI), Mr French said the workshops will be run as two-day, practical based training.
During the workshops students will be able to shear, crutch and handle the sheep.
"We are not going to make shearers out of them in two days, but it is an introduction," Mr French said.
"Hopefully we can tap into a few kids that might look at shearing as a pathway post school.
"And I am also hoping it will become a regular thing and teachers will approach me when they have got interested students."
Mr French said now is a good time for school leavers after completing their HSC to pick up some work.
"Every contractor I am speaking to needs staff," he said.
"They need shed hands. There are plenty of people that want to step up and become a learner shearer, but contractors can't afford for them to step up into that role because they can't afford to replace them as a shed hand."
So far, 24 schools have already registered including Brewarrina Central School in the state's north-west.
Deputy Principal Brewarrina Central School Kathryn Hertslet said western NSW is in need of a continued shearing and wool handling workforce with good skills and a professional attitude towards the industry.
"This program will hopefully provide an opportunity for students, both boys and girls, to see the opportunities that are available in the wool industry. Not just shearing, but all the associated work roles with wool and sheep," Ms Hertslet said.
"We hope that this training will give our students a foot into the industry that is trying to come back in our area, but for want of quality and quantity of shearers and associated workforce is struggling with many wool growers assessing their ability to remain in the Merino wool industry."
She believes it is a great opportunity to give students further training in a profession close to home that will also benefit the local community and wider western NSW area.
Mr French said the industry roughly needs 100 new learner shearers or shed staff every year, just to replace the 10pc that leave the industry annually for whatever reason.
"There are a lot of issues with shearer shortages at present. We can't fix it overnight, but this is a longer-term picture," Mr French said.
"It is a logical and more sustainable approach going forward in the industry.
"We have to really invest in our youth and drive it forward."
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