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VF Corporation, which owns brands such as Icebreaker, Smartwood, The North Face and Timberland, is supporting a shearing and woolhandling cadetship offered to 10 promising cadets in a year-long programme run by Elite Wool Industry Training Ltd.
The programme, which aims to encourage and grow talent within the industry, provides graduates with specialist fine wool harvesting skills and introduces them to broader markets and consumer opportunities that exist for the wool they harvest.
During grower roadshows in New Zealand during 2019 and 2020, VF Corporation senior executives heard from growers that a key threat to their industry was the difficulty in attracting and retaining talent within the wool harvesting industry.
“We heard this message, we listened, and we worked with the New Zealand Merino Company and Elite Wool Industry Training Ltd to design something that we hope will provide leadership and career opportunities within an industry that we truly believe in, and equally truly rely on," director global material supply Jon Hopper said.
Potential cadets had to apply or were nominated for the course and were interviewed by NZM before the final 10 were selected in June.
Cadets, who are all under 25, include three woolhandlers, six machine shearers and one blade shearer. Four of the cadets come from Otago/Southland.
Elite Wool Industry Training ran a three-day course at the Paton family’s farm near Kyeburn last month and the 10 joined another 12 wool harvesters who were upskilling for the general industry.
The cadets would return to their jobs and would be mentored and their progress followed.
"There will be another course for the cadets towards the end of the year so we can see how they have improved," Tom Wilson, of Elite Wool Industry Training, said.
After the course was completed, the cadets would have a graduation ceremony to receive their certificates.
"It is very exciting as they are willing to invest in the grassroots of the industry. Hopefully, looking ahead, the programme will carry on," Mr Wilson said.
NZM general manager markets and sustainability Dave Maslen said the initiative was about driving greater connectivity between its markets, and those directly involved in harvesting the fibre.