Saturday, April 13, 2024

Next generation of shearers, wool-handlers crucial for industry

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WOMOlife training includes on-farm courses to build practical skills in wool-handling and shearing.
WOMOlife training includes on-farm courses to build practical skills in wool-handling and shearing.
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Training the next generation of shearers or wool-handlers needs to be a priority, say two well-known industry figures, Luke Mullins and Carmen Smith, who will be at Fieldays with Agricademy.

Having started her working life as a shepherd, Smith moved into the wool sheds and never looked back. 

Her expertise as a wool handler, presser, and shearer led to her working around the world. 

She has a love of competing and the trophies to show for it.

Along with her partner Gavin, the two run a sheep and beef farm on 340 hectares in Waipukurau and know all about the challenges of building a successful agri-business.  

Farming keeps them very busy but Smith took up the opportunity to become head trainer – wool handling for Agricademy’s WOMOlife.

It is all about giving young people an opportunity.

“I have a passion for teaching and training to inspire and share my knowledge. I look at it as a gift that I can share,” Smith said.  

“For me, it’s really about all the young ones who may or may not know where they want to go but we guide and teach them.”

WOMOlife’s manager Luke Mullins is equally passionate about training the next generation. 

Mullins, who is of Ngāpuhi and Irish descent, has spent the past 17 years shearing full time, including stints around New Zealand, Australia, Italy, and the U.K.

A well-known shearing contractor, Mullins said it can be challenging but hard work and the right attitude will be rewarded. 

“With the right training, a career in shearing and wool handling is really rewarding, and being in the sheds earning good money can be life changing.”

WOMOlife training includes on-farm courses to build practical skills in wool handling and shearing. 

These are backed up by online videos for trainees to learn from the best anytime and anywhere. 

Smith features as the wool-handling host and says the videos make WOMOlife training different from anything else on offer.

“Each trainee that joins our course has a log-in and they get all that information on videos, PDFs and Q&As,” she said. 

“So when they don’t have the trainers with them, they can look it up online and watch these videos that break everything down for them.”

The on-farm and online training is combined with a WorkWise approach which includes health and well-being modules such as MoveWise, EatWise, and MoneyWise.  

The feedback has been really positive, Smith said. 

“We give trainees one-on-one time, and get to know them so they feel heard, and that we can help them. I think maybe previously they’ve been part of a pack and rushed through.”

Going forward, Smith said it would be good to be acknowledged by the government and by funding agencies.

“I’d like them to realise the benefit of what we’re doing and make it a priority for funding because we do a whole package – practical and life skills training – there’s nothing like it in the industry.  

“It’s of benefit to the whole industry, we need well-trained young people coming through, and more people need to be able to take advantage of it.” 

Mullins said he wants to see more pathways for the next generation into the industry and more funding for trainees, and he will be working hard to achieve that.

Both will be at the Agricademy stand, PB18, at Fieldays and would welcome the opportunity to chat to you about the next steps to take in the sheds, whether as a beginner or upskilling, or for contractors to book a time and a date for a WOMOlife trainer for their team.

Disclaimer: Dean Williamson, CEO of AgriHQ, is an Agricademy shareholder

Emily and Sam Welch are regarded among the best shearers in the industry. For Emily, it has seen her become a world record holder and industry role model for female shearers.