Federal boost for wool classers and handlers needs follow up

Terry Sim, February 3, 2023

Australia’s trans-Tasman wool handlers Tina Rimene and Racheal Hutchison work to clear a fleece at the recent national championships in Bendigo.

LIFTING uptake of wool classer and shedhand training is seen as an industry priority after the Federal Government last week announced new additions to the Australia Apprenticeship Priority List.

Wool classers and handlers, and their employers, will be eligible for increased Federal Government training funding under recent changes to the Australia Apprenticeship Priority List announced by Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor.

The prospect of additional training incentives has been welcomed by the shearing industry, although there are doubts about the availability of people to fill more prioritised training. Shearing training continues to be on the list.

Rural Industries Skill Training chief executive officer Bill Hamill welcomed the additions to the priority list, that included Certificate III in Wool Clip Preparation, Certificate IV in Wool Classing and Certificate III in Advanced Wool Handling.

“By putting them on that list the employer gets 10 percent of the salary of the employee up to a maximum of $60,000 and the actual trainee gets about $1200 half-yearly or $2500 a year depending on course length.

“So it’s a considerable increase for the employer and the employee.”

He said shearing with its recognised skill shortage has always been on the priority list, but it will be a benefit for the others.

The additions to the new priority list of Certificate III and IV in Agriculture would also be a “real bonus”, he said.

He said the changes aroused the interest of Certificate IV in Agriculture students at an information session in Hamilton this week.

“So on that indication I think it (the reaction) will be very positive.

“These increased payments to the employers and the trainee will be very beneficial to the industry.”

Mr Hamill the industry now needed to market the prioritised training to prospective participants.

“We need to work together – growers, training providers and all stakeholders — to attract more people to the wool industry as a positive career choice.

“We need more people shearing, we need more people for wool handling and so we need to be presenting a positive image of the industry.”

AWEX and SCAA welcome the changes

AWEX CEO Mark Grave

The wool classer, preparation and handling training additions have been welcomed by the Australian Wool Exchange which registers wool classers. However, the Shearing Contractors’ Association of Australia, while welcoming the changes, cast doubts on the value of the development because of the shortage of candidates and available training delivery resources.

AWEX chief executive officer Mark Grave said there is a wool classer shortage. He supported anything that promotes and gives an opportunity for more employment of classers.

“Skill shortages are a big issue in the industry and have been for some time.”

Given the way the season has gone and the flush of rain that has delayed shearing, Mr Grave welcomed anything that would help with completing shearing and wool handling teams.

Mr Grave said has been a decline in the profession wool classer ranks of about 8 percent, but he has been told more wool classing students have just started training recently.

“We are starting to see more registrations of new people coming into the industry.

“There is a shortage … and we don’t want to in a position in ten years where we are saying ‘where have they gone?’”

SCAA secretary Jason Letchford.

SCAA secretary Jason Letchford said there had been difficulties with getting training organisations to train classers with Federal funding, but he also doubted the availability of people to take up classer training.

“There is no one to hire.

“The weakest link is not incentives or finances, it is humans,” he said.

“The bottleneck in the system is finding the people to fill those jobs, not the cost of the employee or the training.”

“The Federal Government is ‘incentivising’ employers who don’t need incentivising at the moment,” Mr Letchford said.

“The demand for services, such as shearing and wool classing, has outstripped their supply since the drought broke in 2019.

“The Federal Government needs to focus on incentivising workers into remote and regional areas, to take up jobs in agriculture, not give money to employers who would employ a trainee if they could find someone to fill the position, regardless of the incentive.”

Number of priority occupations now stands at 111

The number of occupations covered by the Australian Apprenticeship Priority List has now been expanded from 77 to 111, as part of the Australian Apprenticeship Incentive System.

The additions by the Albanese Government aim to support apprentices and address widespread skills shortages by expanding a list of priority occupations to receive additional financial support.

The government said the additional support unlocked by the development can include up to $5000 in direct payments to apprentices, and a wage subsidy of up to $15,000 for employers.

Skill shortages are the greatest economic challenge – O’Connor

Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor

Mr O’Connor said widespread skill shortages pose one of the greatest economic challenges in decades.

“Wherever you look, there are skills gaps, with the latest analysis showing 47 percent of trade and technician occupations are in shortage, up from 42 percent in 2021.

“Providing targeted support to increase the uptake and completion of apprenticeships in critical sectors is essential to plugging the skills gaps we face,” he said.

Other professions to benefit from the expanded list include electronic equipment trades workers, screen printers, swimming coaches, veterinary nurses and travel consultants.”

The updated priority list is based on independent analysis from Jobs and Skills Australia, through the annual release of the Skills Priority List.

Mr O’Connor said apprentice completion rates have been steadily declining over the past decade and Australia must arrest that decline to provide meaningful career pathways and jobs where industry needs them.

Of all the apprentices and trainees that commenced training in 2017, the latest available figures show just 55.7 reached completion, he said.

“Targeting areas with current and emerging skills demand will ensure apprentices have secure employment for years to come and ultimately fill urgently needed skills vacancies.”

Find information on apprenticeships and the 2023 Australian Apprenticeships Priority List via DEWR.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -