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1 August 2000

Media Release
Lower North Island – Rural Media & Farm Editors Daily Media

Shearing contractors give apprenticeships the thumbs up

Modern apprenticeships could give the shearing industry just the boost it needs, said central North Island shearing contractors on Friday.

The wool industry has been chosen for one of the 12 pilot modern apprenticeship schemes announced by Government in mid July. The pilot will be run by WoolPro, and will feature new style apprenticeships in shearing and wool handling.

Friday’s regional launch and briefing in Palmerston North was attended by contractors from all over the central North Island, with the Minister of Social Services and Employment Hon Steve Maharey as a special guest.

The initiative was given the thumbs up by contractors at the meeting.

“It’s looking pretty promising,” said Viv Lewis, who with her husband Rudy runs a shearing and fencing business based in Taihape.

“If it’s going to enhance the prospects for young people interested in the industry, then that’s good.”

The big issue for shearing contractors was getting young people to take up the jobs available, she said.

The work offered good pay and prospects, but it was hard and young workers needed to be well supported.

Apprentices in the new scheme will be recruited and placed with employers by WoolPro, who will continue to support their work and training for the three year period.

Each apprentice will have a personalised training plan, which can include units in agriculture, first aid, communications, computers, leadership and running small businesses.

Lewis said the options for wider training were a real plus.

“If young people can see they can branch out later, that’s got to be good, because then they’ll know this isn’t all they’re ever going to do.”

A couple of her younger workers were really interested in the scheme, Lewis said.

“This is a first time for our industry. It’s nice to think we might be a part of it.”

Wanganui based contractor Lee Matson said the apprenticeship scheme might help solve the problem he has holding new staff.

And it would tie in well with WoolPro’s promotion of wool harvesting work to senior school students.

Matson has been contracting for nearly 20 years, and has a well-established, stable older workforce. But he finds he can’t keep his young workers.

“They improve, they want to see the world, and they go. This might be a way of giving them more of a commitment.”

His industry needed to show young people that wool harvesting work offered them something worthwhile, and the apprenticeship scheme could help with that.

“Lots of guys who have worked for me have been very successful, they’ve bought farms and similar, after starting out with nothing.

Some contractors were worried that the apprenticeship scheme asked a lot of a small business without direct payback.

“In small crews it can be hard to fit an apprentice in with a gang, and still get the work done on time.

“But if we don’t do it, we’ll end up with an industry without staff.”

WoolPro business development manager for shearer training, Peter Taylor said after the meeting the contractors’ response to the scheme was encouraging.

“At the start there were some who were doubtful but they were one hundred percent for it by the end.

“I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t get off to a great start.”

The contractors had already suggested some possible apprentices, he said.


For more information, please contact:

Peter Taylor, Tel 06 356 8611, or 025 424 465


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