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Born into a family of passionate farmers, Upper Horton’s Toby Walker was always destined for a career on the land. And now, thanks to the skills he has gained studying at TAFE NSW Armidale, Toby is taking his career to the next level, travelling around Australia living his dream as a shearer.
Toby is currently working in Western Australia for BA Millar Shearing at Bencubbin. It’s here the 18-year-old is producing some exceptional results that rival his colleagues who boast decades’ more experience.
Toby’s extremely proud father, Scott, said: “Toby is shearing around 180 and crutching 600 sheep per day, and on several occasions has shorn 200 merino ewes in a day and 300 merino lambs in a day – these numbers are unheard of for someone who has only been shearing for 18 months.
“Toby is very focussed on becoming an elite shearer. He loves the independence of the shearing industry, the freedom of choice and being able to have a stable job where he can work almost anywhere in Australia or overseas while doing something he loves.”
Toby’s progress to shearing in Western Australia is very interesting. After being home schooled for most of his primary and secondary years, Toby obtained permission from the Queensland Education Department to enrol in a Certificate III in Agriculture as a 13-year-old while still attending high school through distance learning.
After completing the Certificate III in Agriculture, Toby then went on to be the youngest ever student at TAFE NSW Armidale to successfully complete a Diploma in Agriculture when he was just 17.
TAFE NSW Agriculture Teacher, Paddy Fagan, said: “Toby was a very self-motivated student, and despite his young age he was very mature and ambitious to succeed.
“In all my time teaching at TAFE NSW (25 years), Toby is one of the hardest working, talented young students that I have had the pleasure of teaching.”
After completing the Diploma, Toby then enrolled in a Certificate IV in Woolclassing at TAFE NSW, a course he is currently completing via remote, blended delivery learning all the way from Western Australia.
Scott added “Toby has an amazing ability to progress through work and study at a rapid rate. This has been shown right throughout his work and schooling life. He is always keen to learn and commits himself to the task at hand 100 per cent.”
According to the Australian Government’s Jobs Outlook website, the number of shearers across Australia grew strongly over the past five years, and there will be more than 4,000 new jobs generated over the next four years.
“I would strongly encourage other students to study in agriculture because it is one of the most rewarding areas to study - one where you never stop learning,” Toby said.
“I think the greatest thing about working in this industry is knowing that farmers feed the world and in doing so we have the ability to repair and regenerate the land for the next generation.
“Learning to shear has allowed me to travel and meet lots of people from some really interesting backgrounds. Studying at TAFE NSW has helped me provide my family with another perspective on our farming practices, and helped make more profitable decisions.”
TAFE NSW has a number of agriculture and shearing courses available for students to complete either on campus, or via remote, blended delivery. For more information visit www.tafensw.edu.au or phone 131 601.