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Looming need for more trained shearers and wool handlers

1 July 2019

Addressing a looming need for more trained shearers and wool handlers

New “micro-credentials” in wool harvesting will help solve a critical need to train shearers and wool handlers, Primary ITO chief executive Linda Sissons said today.

Dr Sissons is today launching three micro-credentials at the Primary Industries Summit in Wellington -- Introduction to the Woolshed, Learner Wool Handler, and Learner Shearer.

The courses are bite-sized pieces of learning, aiming to recognise or teach specific skills for the workplace, on the job, in a short time, she says.

“What makes the issue so pressing, and why the wool industry is one of the first to have micro-credentials being released, is that right now there are no recognised industry qualifications available in New Zealand for shearers and wool handlers.

“This is incredibly important for the wool industry but it’s also an example of one of the future directions of training for all primary industries.”

She says with job openings forecast to grow substantially in wool harvesting in the coming years, training will be critical as New Zealand faces competition from overseas for our shearers and wool handlers.

Dr Sissons says micro-credentials are a game-changer for the primary industries. They are short, sharp pieces of learning but officially recognised and overseen by New Zealand’s education system.

“One of the things we know about our industries is that they’re all crying out for people. Preferably already skilled but if not, they’re prepared to invest to develop the skills they need on the job.

“The real shift we’re working on is the focus on skills rather than big up-front qualifications. A micro-credential puts the emphasis on `just in time’ learning, rather than a lengthy `just in case’ qualification.”

At the top end of the spectrum, Primary ITO’s new micro-credential in biosecurity is at Level 5 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework and pitched at agribusiness managers and owners. The wool courses are at Level 2, and take approximately four weeks of total learning, practising, and assessment. “They mean businesses can bring on new workers and ensure they develop essential skills for the woolshed before investing in further training,” says Dr Sissons.

“It also recognises that shearing gangs move around a lot – workers can learn wherever they are and fit it in whenever best suits the job.”

Despite the current absence of recognised entry level wool harvesting qualifications, people do currently learn on the job from their more experienced colleagues -- but the micro-credentials will help provide a base level of skills and a qualification to demonstrate to future employers that they have those skills.

Primary ITO is this year developing a full suite of wool harvesting programmes, in addition to the micro-credentials, which are expected to be launched in 2020.

More information on the courses is available at


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