Armed with a handpiece and ready to learn, nine young participants headed onto the boards of Jamestown’s new purpose-built Heiniger Training Centre last week for the facility’s inaugural Learner Shearing School.
While some of the students had previous experience in sheds, and others had never shorn a sheep or thrown a fleece, all were keen to get a head start in the shearing industry.
The five-day shearing school, run by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), took participants through everything from the technique of shearing and wool handling, through to equipment maintenance.
Heiniger Australia team manager Australian sales Darren McEvoy visited the site last week and was thrilled by the opportunity being offered to would-be shearers, hoping some would follow through into a career in the industry.
“By the end of Monday they’d shorn half a sheep and by the end of the week they were competent to shear a full sheep on their own,” he said.
“The retention rate from learners to the industry is not great, but to have this facility now, gives them some excellent skills to take them into the industry with potential to earn good money.
“I think there’s a great future for a young person interested in shearing as a career – they can travel the country and the world shearing and that’s the beauty of these schools giving them a kick-start, because if they can get to a point where they can shear 150-200 sheep a day, they see they can have a future in the industry.
“It is a rewarding career. You only get paid for the work you do so the incentive is there to work hard.”
For Jamestown Show president Matt Scharkie, seeing the training centre and school come to fruition has been reward for his team’s hard work and vision.
“It was our goal when we started building the shed to have a training facility and a lot of hours went into making it happen,” he said.
“To actually see it with its first shearing school running this week is brilliant.”
Mr Scharkie said Jamestown’s location made it central for drawing in participants locally as well as Eyre Peninsula, Whyalla, Port Augusta and the pastoral areas, right through to Adelaide in the south.
And for the town itself, he hoped it might attract new people keen to be involved in agriculture and the wool industry.
“This brand new facility has the best of everything, all equipped with Heiniger equipment so it is a fantastic facility to learn in,” he said.
“The school is being run by AWI, which is woolgrower funded so it’s putting money back into the industry.
“A key thing, not just for the training centre, but the Jamestown Show as well, is that we want to get young people involved and help them see there is a great future in the industry.
“You really don’t have to be brought up in the agriculture industry to be involved in agriculture, there are jobs there for those who want to be part of it.
“Jamestown has a fair proportion of shearers living in the town because it is central, there’s a lot of sheep in the regions all around us and it’s a good base to start out as a shearer.”
Jack Kitschke, 16, of Jamestown was one of the inaugural participants and said the shearing school had given him a head start for the future.
“I wanted to be part of the course to learn new techniques of how to hold the sheep and handpiece,” he said.
“We were very lucky to have two of the best shearer trainers come to Jamestown and for that I am very grateful.
“I learned many new things from the course and hope to pursue a career in the shearing industry.”
Mr Scharkie said it was anticipated up to four Learner Shearer Schools per year would be hosted in the Jamestown training centre and the plan was to expand into wool classing schools also.