The TAFE NSW Primary Industries Centre woolshed has swung into action as students from across the Riverina have taken to learning one of Australia’s oldest professions.
Year 9, 10 and 11 students from Hilston, Ardlethan and Barellan Central schools, under the tuition of TAFE NSW teachers, were given a hands-on experience into the ins and outs of shearing and wool harvesting.
The pilot program looks to encourage younger generations to look at woolshed career paths by giving them basic training.
The number of working shearers has dropped dramatically in the past three decades, from 10,000 in the mid-’90s to just over 2000 as of 2022.
TAFE NSW head teacher of agriculture Rob Harris said the experience would give local teens the practical skills and experience to pursue a career or part-time work in the wool industry.
“The shearing school will give participants the fundamental skills to work in a woolshed and an opportunity to gain immediate work as a roustabout,” Mr Harris said.
“The wool industry is an exciting one to be a part of right now, with many pathways for different roles.
“The timing of this course couldn’t be better either, as the demand for shearers and roustabouts is expected to be high in the Goulburn region this spring.”
The week-long course gives graduates credit towards a Certificate III in Shearing or a Certificate IV in Wool Classing.
All signs point to the program being a success, with a school enrolled already looking to add more students.
Mr Harris said he was confident the program’s popularity in Wagga would allow TAFE NSW to take it statewide.
“We’ve come through the Department of Education NSW, who put out an expression of interest to all the schools around the area,” Mr Harris said.
“The responses then came back to us and have been extremely positive.
“A school from Cootamundra, for example, came out to the sheds a couple of weeks ago with four students who took part, and the students obviously took something away from it because we now have another 20 from that one school who are ready to have a go. That’s the sort of positive response we are getting.”
Student Natasha Peters, who has grown up on a Poll Merino stud in Hillston, said the five-day course had strengthened her resolve to make a career in the agriculture industry or take over the family farm one day.
“It’s been such a great experience and very hands-on,” Natasha said.
“I’ve been around sheds my whole life but I’ve learned so much about the technical side here – how to hold the handpiece, where your feet should be.”
More information on available courses in shearing is available on the TAFE NSW website.