A new initiative focused on the recruitment, training and retaining of shearers and shed hands is expected to help ease the shortage of shearers across Tasmania.
The Wool Industry Workforce Development Project, funded by Skills Tasmania and coordinated by Primary Employers Tasmania, aims to attract young people into the industry.
It will provide coaching and mentoring throughout their developmental journey, and support farmers and contractors to improve workplaces to remove retention barriers.
I am delighted to be representing Nutrien Wool on the industry steering committee, which comprises representatives from the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association Wool Council, Australian Wool Innovation, the Shearing Contractors' Association of Australia and Primary Employers Tasmania.
Former shearer, current Hons. science student and project manager, Locky West, has made a great start, working with key stakeholders to review shearing workforce requirements, analyse workforce turnover and promote shearing and wool harvesting career options in schools and at career forums.
One of the next priorities will be to provide technical coaching and support to shearers and wool handlers in their workplaces.
Mr West is also progressing discussions with training organisations to assess options for formal shearing qualifications to entice school leavers to sign-up for wool handling and shearing certificates.
Initial investigations as part of the project revealed many school leavers have not considered careers in the wool industry and are unaware of the extensive range of work opportunities from the sheep to the shop.
These challenges prompt so many opportunities regarding how we can better promote wool industry careers in schools, and how we can best connect with young innovators and entrepreneurs to entice them into wool work.
A great example of a farmer doing recruitment differently is third generation farmer Alison Napier, based in Tasmania's Fingal Valley.
GH Napier & Son is running 2000 sheep on agistment, 1200 breeders and 1100 dairy heifers, and growing fodder crops, on 5500 hectares near St Marys.
The business has adopted a new approach to recruitment in a bid to attract young, progressive and forward-thinking employees who are passionate about careers in agriculture.
This includes a new brand strategy that encompasses a brand identity with target-market focused images and words, underpinned by a new website, photo shoot and social media campaign.
There were more than 20,000 engagements within the first 48 hours on Facebook alone.
It is fabulous that farmers are thinking outside the square, connecting with the next generation and proactively positioning agriculture as a career of choice.
Safe Farming Tasmania and Primary Employers Tasmania are also about to release Safety Awareness Sessions in shearing sheds around the state.
These will feature expert speakers about shed safety and design, plant safety, technology, legislative requirements, injury trends, insurance, workers compensation data and more.
For the wool industry to remain at the fore, we need growers, agents, buyers, exporters, processors, retailers, consumers and industry associations to take on the role of wool brand ambassadors so we can recruit people, ideas and innovation.
It is exciting to see Tasmania take a lead role and I am sure the Wool Industry Workforce Development Project will produce many insights that can be shared across the industry nationwide.