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Beyond the Bale : June 2016
46 ON FARM Throughout their long careers in the wool industry, TAFE NSW Sheep and Wool teacher Rob Harris and shearer trainer Bill Kimber have remained committed to equipping students with knowledge and skills to pursue a career in the wool industry. Bill has a long association with the industry, starting out as a wool handler in 1965 and progressing to shearing full time in 1968. In 1987 he began working as a shearer trainer with the former Australian Wool Corporation and in 1990 began working as a shearer trainer for TAFE NSW. “It is good being a shearer trainer as you can see the students improve so much in just a fortnight; many start out and haven’t even stepped foot in a shed before,” Bill said. Rob is a wool classer by trade, and this is Rob’s 31st year teaching wool classing and wool handling. TAFE NSW Riverina Institute’s Primary Industries Centre (PIC) generally operates three schools a year including two on site at its Wagga Wagga campus, with on average 12 students attending each school. All sheds used for the schools have raised boards. Bill and Rob also operate a shearing and wool handling school at the Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre using a portable shearing trailer built by inmates at the Junee Correctional Centre. The TAFE PIC has had excellent local support from generous woolgrowers within the Wagga region who provide their sheep for use in the training. “The students learn on whatever is available at the time; it might be ewes, wethers, lambs, Merinos or crossbreds,” Bill said. Students of all ages and all walks of life attend the schools which cater for beginners and improvers. Rob said the majority of the students are learners, but that some students can reach their first 100 after three weeks of shearing. “We have had students come through from as young as 15 years-old to a 60 year-old retired school teacher who wanted to learn how to crutch his own sheep and clean up fly blown sheep,” Rob said. “A few years ago we had a 35 year-old wool handler come and do the course as he wanted to shear to earn more money to support wife and his five children. He had never picked up a handpiece but he has stayed with it since the school and now consistently shears 150 sheep a day.” The students start off learning about the hand piece, combs and cutters and by mid-morning on day one of the school the students are shearing bellies and crutching if it’s required. They work in pairs and one shears to the long blow and then the other one finishes off. They take turns at this technique until they can proficiently shear the entire sheep on their own. The school operates similar hours to a regular shed – a 7.30am start and it wraps up at 5.15pm. Students also have theory lessons, on topics such as grinding, during their lunch break. “I’ve seen a lot of change in the industry but I still love working with wool and enjoy imparting knowledge to students,” Rob said. “I like to see people, particularly young people, coming into the industry. “Bill and I have a sense of accomplishment when we see former students develop professional careers within the wool industry. Five to thirty years on, they are still contributing, whether they are shearers, wool classers/shed staff and even beyond in the broking and buying side. We are now seeing the next generation of family members coming through.” See opposite for an article about Nicki Guttler who went through a shearing school last year taught by Bill Kimber and Rob Harris. PASSING ON SKILLS IN WOOL HARVESTING Rob Harris and Bill Kimber from the Riverina of NSW take great enjoyment in passing on their shearing and wool handling skills to a new generation of youngsters keen to enter the wool industry. TAFE NSW Sheep and Wool teacher Rob Harris. Shearer trainer Bill Kimber. “It is good being a shearer trainer as you can see the students improve so much in just a fortnight.” Bill Kimber “I’ve seen a lot of change in the industry but I still love working with wool and enjoy imparting knowledge to students.” Rob Harris
In the Shops - September 2016