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Beyond the Bale : Oct - Nov 08
Australian Wool Innovation Limited AWI, GPO Box 4177, Sydney NSW 2001 and gained – that provided work experience in the wool industry and added wool-related topics to her studies. “It opened up a door to an industry which I believe offers a diversity no other agribusiness in Australia can,” she says from her Dubbo base. “From this starting point I see a career that can take me anywhere in the world.” Although the job description for her current role is managing the wool supply into the top-making facility by making sure the right quality and quantities are available at the right time according to processing demands, Libbi is learning all facets of the business including dealing with international customers and woolgrowers. Her scholarship work experience originally saw her spend three weeks with Elders, under the guidance of a regional wool ‘rep’ and then, in the Adelaide head office, learning about wool broking and exporting. Another three weeks was spent at CSIRO Livestock at Chiswick, Armidale, working with animal production researchers in the field and the laboratory. “I enjoyed both, but I felt a career in sheep production would mean I would have to narrow my focus and spend a lot of time in one area, whereas in agribusiness my career could take me wherever I want to go,” Libbi says. Libbi found her extra study subjects on wool Profile libbi Thompson Supply chain SpecialiSt Wool, the business, inspires a career For a girl from cattle country who, at university, continued to find herself surrounded by bovine enthusiasts, Libbi Thompson has certainly swum against the tide, taking instead to the wool business – and with a passion. Libbi, 23, is a shining example of the results of industry investment in scholarships that aim to nurture the next generation of professionals. Winning an AWI scholarship for her last two years of a double bachelor degree in animal production and agribusiness, at the University of Queensland at Gatton, not only introduced her to the world of wool production, but also wooed her into what she considers is one of the most exciting careers for a young agriculturalist wanting to take commodities beyond the farm gate. For almost a year Libbi has been working in wool delivery coordination with Fletchers International at Dubbo, NSW, learning all aspects of the business from wool buying to exporting. In her spare time she is studying for her woolclasser’s certificate at TAFE and now takes her holidays to coincide with shearing on her family’s farm at Ashford, near Goondiwindi on the NSW–Queensland border. Like most of her university peers, Libbi started her four-year degree not quite knowing where it would take her. Her courses focused on the beef and horticulture industries and, while she learned about sheep production, the university did not offer any wool-related subjects. It was the chance sighting of an AWI scholarships poster – a scholarship Libby subsequently applied for production, needed to meet the scholarship critera, were available through the Sheep Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) at the University of New England, although at the time she found one of those subjects, wool metrology, so hard she could never understand how it would help in her career. “Now I use the ‘lingo’ every day. It is like everything I learnt in the last two years of uni has fallen into place in this job,” Libbi says of the position she found by simply telephoning Fletchers and asking for a job at the end of her studies. As for the woolclassing certificate – Libbi believes it is essential for a career in the wool industry because it is helping her understand the impact of decisions made on the classing table. “Woolclassing is where the marketing of a clip starts and the more concentration given to it, the better placed your clip is in earning the right price.” Sheep numbers on the family farm at Ashford are down to 1800 head, from a high of 3500 six years ago, and Libbi is trying to encourage her father to “think sheep not cattle”, just as she does. She keeps reminding him of the amount of money he has invested in keeping his cattle alive in drought conditions, as opposed to sheep. “It’s slowly working. Even my brother, who is cattle mad, talks more about sheep these days,” she adds. Libbi encourages anyone studying agribusiness to apply for a scholarship and is grateful to woolgrowers for supporting students through the AWI program. “Not only did it really help financially, it opened up a whole new world to me.” More information: Libbi Thompson, firstname.lastname@example.org; wool industry scholarships for postgraduate students are available through the AWI-funded Sheep CRC, www.sheepcrc.org.au – Kellie Penfold
Dec 08 - Jan 09
Aug - Sep 08