A VICTORIAN-BASED sheep shearer trainer and trainee program was helping to solve the industry’s national labour shortage and providing a model for collaborative training in other sectors.
The first nine students from a $1.2 million Andrews Labor Government course for sheep shearing teachers were today presented with their graduation certificates at a Warrnambool district property ‘Injemira’.
Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney presented the graduate certificates and said the program was a role model of what was needed for training in other industries.
“What we need is industries to step and come forward with ideas.
“We know where many of the shortages are, but we know that there needs to be strong collaboration between those players in the industry, so it is industry and the training providers coming up with innovative ways in which we can train people.”
Ms Tierney said it is fantastic to celebrate the inaugural graduates of the program, “which is all about addressing a skills shortage and bolstering one of Victoria’s valuable industries.”
“Our unprecedented investment in skills and training will provide a stronger pathway between education and the workforce and ensure Victoria has a strong economy as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.”
The shearer trainer graduates received financial and learning assistance through the South West TAFE Shearer Trainer Scholarship Program to complete the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. They can now be booked as contractors to deliver accredited training to students in shearing sheds across the state.
The $1.2 million program was funded by the Victorian Government to help address a skills shortage in the state’s growing wool industry by fostering a local pool of highly skilled workers and by providing opportunities to upskill.
It was developed in partnership with SW TAFE, the Shearing Contractors Association Australia’s Shearer Woolhandler Training division, Rural Industries Skills Training and the Victorian Farmers Federation.
The enrolment target for shearing courses was exceeded in 2020, with nearly 130 students signing-up to the new entry level qualification, Certificate II and Certificate III. The funding also helped create and update learning resources, including the Shearing Training App which features VR instructional videos that support hands-on learning on the farm in conjunction with face-to-face training.
Former shearer and shearing contractor for 30 years, and now program graduate Jamie Tippet said he overcame his lack of knowledge about IT to complete the program and is now employed by SCAA Shearer Woolhandler Training. He said the app was a “gamechanger” for young shearers, giving them the ability to film and compare their shearing against the technique of former world champion Shannon Warnest on their mobile phones while on the job.
SCAA Shearer Woolhandler Training CEO Glenn Haynes said the shearer trainer scholarship program had set the industry up for the next 10 years and the benefits of the new graduates would be felt nationally.
He said 90 percent of the trainee shearers in their third week on the job after doing the five-day shearing course, with follow-up training and using the app, were shearing 100 sheep a day.
These tallys were normally achieved after five weeks on the job, but he said the real benefit was the level of shearer retention, which had increased from 30pc to 60-70pc, which had also been helped by the shearer shortage.
“There are more people staying in the industry because they have access to that app and they’re not getting frustrated.”
South West TAFE executive manager – education Louise Cameron said in the mid-1980s about 12,000 people listed their occupation as shearer, in 2016 there were 2900.
“And we all know that there are less than that today.”
She said the COVID-19 pandemic had made it harder for shearers to travel interstate and for New Zealand shearers to come here. With rise in shearing rate in New Zealand, they might decide not to come out to Australia in the future, she said.
“So this election promise for the shearing industry could not have been more timely.”
Former South West TAFE teaching quality projects manager and shearer trainer-trainee program manager Belinda Kim said the app was easing the physical load on trainee shearers and was accessible “24/7 anytime anywhere.”
“That hasn’t been done before, particularly in an industry that has lagged from a digital point of view.”
He said pandemic’s travel restrictions made the program adopt the digital landscape, changing to 90pc virtual delivery, when it was intended to be largely hands-on, and given the trainers a new way of thinking around training.
“It’s open the way for further innovation and consideration of how they could integrate technology into the shearer training program.”
She said “beta-running” the app while training shearers gave it its validity and ensured it was a quality product.
South West TAFE CEO Mark Fidge said shearing has been at the heart of so many regional Victorian towns for generations.
“Our partnership with the Victorian Government will ensure the industry remains strong into the future.”
Rural Industries Skill Training Centre CEO Bill Hamill said the Victorian Government’s support has made a real difference to the sector and would ensure shearing training is rolled out at even more locations across the state.
Toolkits with shearing equipment have been made available at Certificate III level to encourage students to pursue education and to remove the financial barriers of entering the workforce.
The number of locations where accredited training is offered has doubled since the program began, giving regional students access to high-quality education and a pathway to the workforce in their local communities.