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'WE MEAT AGAIN': Unique program helping 'Gong butchers snag new staff

TAFE NSW Wollongong West

'WE MEAT AGAIN': Unique program helping 'Gong butchers snag new staff

Learning the tricks of the meat trade as part of a unique pilot program are (from left) Mark Wadsworth from MINTRAC, photographer/videographer Luke Neofytou, and participants Kai O’Regan, Benjamin McCarthy, Allan Pond, Nathan Novina, Robert Harvey, Nathan Millett and Andrew Brien.

16 April 2024

TAFE NSW Wollongong West will partner with a meat industry peak body to host a unique program this month offering local jobseekers a “taster” of the butchery trade and helping address a worsening skills gap.

The three-day Introduction to the Retail Butchery Industry course, a National Meat Industry Training Advisory Council (MINTRAC) initiative supported by TAFE NSW and local job providers, will welcome its second tranche of students on 29 April.

It comes as retail butchers continue to face fierce competition from major supermarkets, with the Australian Meat Industry Council reporting around a third of independent retail butchers are in desperate need of staff.

In an Australian first, Wollongong hosted the pilot program in November, with the 10 students selected from job agency Max Employment all successfully completing the course. A number of the graduates subsequently received interviews with local butcheries.

MINTRAC Industry Training and Engagement Lead Mark Wadsworth said the feedback from local industry was so positive, Wollongong was again chosen as the host location.

“The retail butchery space has been struggling for many years to attract new people to the industry and this is an innovative way to tap into a potential new workforce,” Mr Wadworth said.

“This is about protecting the longevity of the retail butchery industry and letting locals know there are great careers available in butchery.

“The truth is, you can go down the uni path and be studying for four to six years, or you can got down the VET pathway and start earning immediately.”

As part of the course, which is funded by Training Services NSW’s Trade Pathway program, students get an overview of many aspects of the job, including food safety and manual handling, before visiting five local butcheries and speaking with employers.

MINTRACs CEO Mick Crouch applauded Training Services NSW for providing the project funding to support the program.

“It is clearly evident from our engagement and conversations with retail butcher stores that there are rewarding and immediately available career opportunities for job seekers who are willing to learn on the job and through formalised apprenticeship training through TAFE NSW Wollongong West,” Mr Crouch said.

One of the participating businesses is Cleaver & Co in Wollongong. Cleaver & Co owner-operator Lachy Kerr will facilitate a session during the pre-employment training program. He is currently expanding, and looking to hire multiple candidates and wants to support trade entry.

“It’s great that MINTRAC and TAFE NSW are doing this because we have an ageing workforce and we need to keep exposing potential new entrants to the industry,” he said. “Courses like this can only benefit the industry.”


TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Meat and Allied Trades Michael Knowles said the course was an example of how TAFE NSW worked hand-in-glove with industry to confront workforce challenges.

“Butchers in the Illawarra desperately need new people and there are plenty of apprenticeships available,” Mr Knowles said. “It really is a skill for life and with a TAFE NSW qualification, you could find work anywhere in the country.”

TAFE NSW Wollongong West trains all the Illawarra’s butchery apprentices through a mix of workplace and on-campus training.

Media contact: Dan Johns, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, 0477 722 428