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Educating secondary school pupils about career options in the wool harvesting industry and providing improved pastoral care for its workers are two of the arms and aims of proposed pilot programmes being developed by the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association.
The association has been given $1.86million from the Provincial Growth Fund to develop four pilot New Zealand Shearing Training Model programmes in Otago, Southland, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne to address the shortage of workers in the industry.
Association chief executive Phil Holden said the "earn as you learn" pilot programmes would become sustainable, integrated training models for the industry.
"The pilot programmes are going to be proof-of-concept models, looking at utilising hands-on training.
"Provided the pilots work, we want to integrate them into long-term models."
The NZSCA did not want to be a training provider long term.
"What we do want is to enjoy the benefits.
"As there is a bit of a vacuum [of trained wool harvesters], this initiative will plug the gap."
In addition, the association is setting up an overseeing trust, the Kaiaka Wool Industry Training New Zealand, which will run the pilots, and, if successful, eventually integrate them into the vocational education NZQA framework.
The trustees have been selected, although they have yet to meet.
Once established, the trust will hold discussions with possible local service providers.
In addition to training 150 new shearers and upskilling 120 existing shearers, with woolhandlers in the mix, the pilots will include presentations targeting secondary school pupils to inform them about career options.
Tahi NgaTahi, which is the health and safety arm of the industry, will also be involved.
Association vice-president Carolyn Clegg, of Te Anau, has the health and welfare portfolios.
While pastoral care would be covered in the pilot, it was too early to say in what shape or form that would take.
Mr Holden said the funding was for two years and once the pilots were under way would be free for students, although later programmes would have to be self-sufficient.
"Our expectation is that the first year was very much about establishing it and getting it working, and the second year we want to focus on the integration.
"It is an exciting time for the sector.
"Our members support this programme 100%."
Shearing contractor Dion Morrell, of Alexandra, said the funding would solve some of the industry’s staffing problems, and in particular the shortage of woolhandlers, although not immediately.
Until this year contractors had employed overseas skilled and experienced wool harvesters who came into the country for the shearing season, but as New Zealand’s borders were closed because of Covid-19, that was now not possible.
"Usually we would have up to 20 staff [in our business] from overseas but we will probably not see them this year.
"I am nervous if this goes on
"A lot of the industry is struggling."