7 July 2023

Demand surges for wool-classing courses

| Gail Eastaway
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woman in wool-classing room

A shortage of workers has increased demand for wool-classing studies. Australian Wool Exchange registrar Fiona Raleigh says there is growing pressure on wool-harvesting staff numbers across the state. Photo: NSW TAFE.

Australia’s peak wool marketing body has welcomed strong demand for wool-classing training at TAFE NSW Cooma as the industry confronts a growing skills gap.

TAFE NSW has seen demand surge for the Certificate IV in Wool Classing this semester, with record enrolments across several campuses in the region.

Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) registrar Fiona Raleigh welcomed the renewed interest, saying there was growing pressure on wool-harvesting staff numbers across the state.

“It’s great news that TAFE NSW is helping train the next generation of workers because there’s been a lot of pressure on the industry to find enough registered wool classers,” Ms Raleigh said.

“The fact, there are more campuses offering wool classing and the courses are fee-free, which will make a big difference to the industry.”

Ms Raleigh said for the first time, more female wool classers were graduating from training organisations such as TAFE NSW than males.

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TAFE NSW head teacher of agriculture Rob Harris, who has been a wool classer for 43 years, said TAFE NSW Cooma was giving aspiring wool classers the practical skills and experience to make an immediate impact on the industry.

“A lot of shed staff have been lost over the past few years and so TAFE NSW has stepped up to support the industry,” Mr Harris said.

“We’re offering a course that is a lot more accessible to students’ lifestyles, with the theory component done online and two practical skills days a month at Cooma. The course can now also be done in 12 months, rather than two years.”

Mr Harris said graduates were able to gain a stencil (a tag that identifies each wool classer) and work in the industry immediately after completing the course.

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Local shearing contractor Mick Schofield is a strong supporter of any training that can be provided to improve the industry as a whole.

Mr Schofield works with Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) to bring shearing and wool-handling clinics to the Cooma region a couple of times a year, to help at least maintain worker numbers.

He said the industry had lost 35 to 40 per cent of its workforce in recent years, so providing local study options was welcome.

He said a career in the wool industry could be a stepping stone to bigger and better things, with the work ethic it engendered applying to all walks of life.

Carly Everett is one of dozens of students to take advantage of the fee-free course. After completing a Certificate III and Diploma of Agriculture at TAFE NSW, Ms Everett enrolled in the Certificate IV in Wool Classing to broaden her skills and career prospects.

“The course has been so hands-on and the teachers have been really flexible in how they deliver it, which is great for those of us working full time,” she said.

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