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RIST shearer training to get re-vamp with ‘train and retain’ strategy

by Terry Sim, 21 December 2018

RIST shearing instructor Trevor Bacon.

SHEARER trainer Trevor Bacon has returned home to western Victoria with plans to boost the ranks and skills of those who harvest the nation’s wool clip.

The former Branxholme resident is back to help rejuvenate the shearer training program of RIST at Hamilton, which had become “a bit stagnant” in recent years.

As RIST’s new full-time shearer trainer, Mr Bacon is looking forward to revamping training in western Victoria, statewide and nationally.

The 53-year-old started shearing 38 years ago and has represented Australia in several trans-Tasman tests. In 2002, he set a new world lamb shearing record of 471 crossbred lambs in eight hours. In 1994 with David ‘Daffy’ Ryan he helped set a world two-stand record for Merino lambs in eight hours. Mr Ryan shore 625 and Trevor shore 620.

During a break from his first two-day improver-advanced shearing workshop near Hamilton recently, Mr Bacon said his plan includes proven strategies to train and retain shearer sand wool handlers. He also wants to expand RIST shearing training nationally, with mentoring by experienced shearers and wider use of social media.

Mr Bacon wants to replicate the success South Australia has had in recent years training shearers and wool handlers. In his time (how long?) with TAFE SA, 300 shearers were trained annually, from leaners to improvers to advanced level.

“We were running 13-stand sheds with one side improver and one side advanced in the outback.”

He said skill improvements and social media comments by those undertaking the training attracted new trainees in South Australia.

Mentoring and goal-setting are important

The former TAFE SA trainer has also been a mentor of the first woman to complete her Certificate III in shearing in South Australia, Chloe Swiggs, so he wants to focus on mentoring male and female shearers to develop their mindset and improve their belief in themselves to lift performance.

“What we’ve been doing over there is goal-setting — which is an important part of retention – including short, medium and long-term goals.

“We want to make them want to be part of an industry that is pretty vital and in which you can make a lot of money.”

Mr Bacon said there is a need for more young shearers in Australia and he expected the number of transient shearers from New Zealand to decline with recent NZ shearing rate increases.

“They might stay at home if they are getting more money or come for shorter times when there is no work over there.”

Increasing numbers of Australian flocks were also being shorn at six and eight month intervals.

More shearing trainers needed

RIST shearing instructor Trevor Bacon demonstrating in the Hamilton workshop.

Mr Bacon would also like to boost the number of shearer trainers. South Australia had a “bank” of up to 12 experienced shearers available to conduct training, including former world champion and current national team member Shannon Warnest, Justin Dolphin and others.

“It’s lacking here.”

He said the industry is also finding it hard to retain wool handlers, especially in remote areas lacking phone service.

“We want to get them, train them and retain them.”

Healesville High School student Riley Lawther, 17, attended the RIST shearing school as part of his Certificate II Shearing course and is looking at studying to enter a trade or be employed in agriculture, initially as a shearer. His family has a small sheep property producing prime lambs.

“It’s a good skill to have and use when you can do it.”

Fellow Certificate II Shearing student, Chloe Dann, 27, from Bass near Philip Island, attended the RIST workshop to learn how to shear the sheep at the Philip Island Nature Park on Churchill Island, where she works.

“We do demonstrations for tourists; we’ll do whip cracking working dog, cow milking and sheep shearing demonstrations and I’m quite competent in the other three, but shearing takes a lot more time.”

Before attending the RIST course, she had only crutched a few sheep, but after meeting and talking with other students was looking forward to the work and travel options shearing offered.

“It’s quite exciting because a lot of the people I’ve spoken to say it (shearing) can really take you almost anywhere in the world where there are sheep.”

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