Quality Wool commits to youth for industry future

Quality Wool Managing Director Mark Dyson and Australian Wool Innovation consultant Carol Stubbs (third from right), with young team members Jeremy Dyson, James Kellett, Eyre Peninsula SA, Suzie Carlon, Orange NSW, Hayden Hillman, Jamestown SA, Dale Bowers, Stockinbingal NSW, and Brad Parnell, Bendigo Vic, at the company’s 27,000m2 wool store and show floor in Geelong.

IN a move to help reverse the decline in young people entering the wool industry, wool broker Quality Wool has created its own pathway for young team members that is set to benefit their careers and growers across the country.

The dedicated program has had an immediate impact, with the company employing six young staff in the last five months who will soon be posted in various areas around Australia and assist senior staff with support to growers.

Despite the tough seasonal conditions in eastern Australia that has slashed wool production, Quality Wool decided to invest in the youth program to provide an educational commitment and help improve the industry’s future.

“We are committing to young people with a workshop program that educates them on-the-job, whilst they are employed,’’ said Managing Director Mark Dyson.

He said the lack of young people entering certain industries was magnified in agriculture and, due to various reasons including limited courses on offer, there had been a deficiency in employing young people, particularly technical personnel, in the wool sector over the past 20 years.

“With the previous historically low wool prices and declining sheep and wool numbers, there was not much of a bright horizon for those wanting to enter the industry.’’

“However, now with more buoyant times, the good work by AWI into technologies and innovation through to overseas customers and our dedicated workshop program in the industry, we are receiving enquiries every week.’’

The six young team members recently employed are aged from 21 to 34 and come from a range of agricultural backgrounds including shearing and farmhand work, while two also are professional wool classers.

“They now want to turn their hand to the technical side of the industry, which will benefit growers as they continue to work with senior technical staff at Quality Wool,’’ Mark said.

The workshop program is assisted by Australian Wool Innovation consultant Carol Stubbs, who has a strong background in the fashion industry, which has been particularly valuable for the young team’s understanding of the farm to fabric wool process.

“From a greasy bale of wool, they have been shown all the way through to the end garment product that has been produced from different wool types, so they understand the importance of classing and preparing wool for growers,’’ Mark said.

“From the bale of wool entering our stores, the program has taken them through lotting; sampling; testing, including a visit to the AWTA lab in Melbourne; presentation on the show floor; auctions, where they met buyers; through to identifying the wool types suitable for different garments.’’

Mark said the workshop program provided an excellent path for young people entering the wool industry and there were plans to continue it across the Quality group in future.

Carol said the education was critical to give staff the context and bigger picture understanding of their roles in the industry.

“The training goes through all aspects of the wool pipeline, including the latest product innovations. What happens at fibre growing stage and leading up to auction has far-reaching effects on the final product – and on demand from the end customer,’’ Carol said.

“It shows how important it is to be specific in all the classifications and the effect of this further down the line, and why it is critical to relay information back to growers.

“Every step of the supply chain is important, especially since Australia is the leading supplier of Merino apparel in the world.’’

Suzie Carlon, who has been classing wool the past four years and recently commenced work based from the Quality Wool store at Orange in New South Wales, said the program provided a much greater understanding and a different perspective on the full process than she had already gained.

Suzie, who also holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science but prefers the wool and livestock industry, said it particularly highlighted the importance of getting wool preparation right on the farm.

James Kellett, originally from Adelaide and who has just joined Quality Wool after four years of farm hand and shearing work on the Eyre Peninsula, said for someone who was not familiar with the industry, the program provided a wider perspective on the whole process in simple terms.

James said it had been a great journey so far and he particularly liked the visit to the Geelong wool store and Melbourne auction rooms, including meeting with wool buyers.

Former shearer Dale Bowers, who also holds a wool classing certificate and joined Quality Wool in the Wagga Wagga and wider region in August, said going through the whole process was most beneficial and it was more in-depth than he experienced in the Australian Wool Exchange classroom.

“It was great to see the clear process through to manufacturing of garments, the different wool types used and the end result with how garments are made,’’ Dale said.