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23 February 2001

Media Release
Wairarapa Times–Age Golden Shears Supplement

Wool industry at forefront of Modern Apprenticeship scheme

The first shearing and wool handling apprentices trained under the Modern Apprenticeship Scheme are now working in the sheds.

The pilot scheme sees WoolPro work with shearing contractors to get young, keen, capable and committed people into the wool industry, and onto a clearly defined career path.

The wool industry was one of 12 the Government chose last year to run pilot apprenticeship schemes. Modern Apprenticeships are a new educational pathway for 16 – 21 year olds. They combine the strength of the apprenticeship tradition with the best of modern workplace learning.

WoolPro is already a major training provider and trains up to 1500 students a year in shearing, wool handling and wool classing.

Since the launch of the rejuvenated apprenticeship scheme last June, 16 wool industry trainees and 12 contractors have taken up the new training opportunities, which will be the start of a three-year partnership.

WoolPro is coordinating the groups of apprentices, and helps recruit and place them with a suitable contractor. It then oversees their ongoing training and development.

“There’s been concern for some time about the aging workforce in the wool industry,” says WoolPro training development manager Trevor Gardiner.

“There has been plenty of interest from other employers and prospective trainees. We have a number of people who are going through the process and we should get a few more started over the next few months.”

The success of the pilot scheme has encouraged the Government to go to the next stage in the programme.

There is a real need for a system such as this in the sheep industry, and its arrival couldn’t have been more timely, according to WoolPro business development manager for shearer training, Peter Taylor.

He says the wool harvesting industry is an attractive career option for young people, but it has become increasingly difficult for them to gain the hands-on experience they need to become fast and efficient.

“Shearing contractors know the industry needs a constant flow of new entrants, but their immediate need is for experienced and competent workers on the board – today.”

He says the apprenticeship scheme can provide the bridge between these two conflicting requirements.

Under the scheme, apprentices will gain a wide variety of skills and have the security of ongoing employment – three years’ worth – while employers will be ensuring that the industry has a first class workforce for the future.

Outside a core subject – either shearing or wool handling – apprentices also have a personalised training plan, which can include units in agriculture, first-aid, communication, computers, leadership or running a small business.

Other training options

Other WoolPro programmes include ‘Wool for schools’ – a day of hands-on experience of shearing and wool handling.

This gives senior students a taste of working situation in a woolshed. The day includes a good overview of other opportunities in the wool industry, to give students the whole picture.

Those who are keen and capable are invited to join a learners’ programme, where they can begin to work towards a National Certificate.

At the other end of the skill spectrum, WoolPro is also making it easier for shearers to do advanced courses closer to home.

WoolPro has strengthened its regional shearing and wool handling training by taking on two new full-time instructors, and giving responsibility for all training requirements in a region - including advanced courses – to selected senior shearing coordinators.

With these two on board it’ll be easier to run these advanced courses closer to where the demand is.

However, it’s not only shearing training that is available. WoolPro also runs the comprehensive Certificate in Wool Handling Systems, which is compulsory for anyone starting down the track to becoming a classer. It also offers a range of wool handling certificates and presser training.

Shearing and wool handler training is all part of the industry’s quality management programme. In co-operation with employers and trainees, WoolPro is leading the way in improving overall skill levels and the quality of the wool.

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