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Despite years of life experience on the land, fifth-generation Merino farmer and shearer Rachel Pritchard turned to TAFE NSW to get the skills and qualifications she needed to succeed in the industry she loves.
The 28-year-old from Murringo, who helps run the family farm Karoola with her dad and siblings, is studying a Certificate IV in Wool Classing through at TAFE NSW Cowra after completing a shearing school at TAFE NSW Dubbo to hone her skills with a handpiece.
“I wasn’t great at school, but the TAFE NSW teachers are experts at making learning accessible and nothing is ever a dumb question. They have so much industry knowledge, it’s insane,” she said.
“The shearing and wool industry has changed a lot in 20 years, and the TAFE NSW teachers give you a bigger picture understanding of the future of the industry, the process of wool production, and how wool commodities and overseas markets work. It’s that kind of foundational knowledge you need to build a really successful career.”
Not surprisingly, Rachel’s natural talent and ambition is paying off. She was the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Peter Westblade Scholarship, which funds participation in industry activities such as the Young Farmer Business Program, and earlier this year she won the Mid Lachlan Flock Ewe Competition Encouragement Award.
“I could never sit at a desk all day, and working with wool just comes naturally to me, but you still need to study and work hard to achieve, and I want my children to see that. That’s why I went back to TAFE NSW,” she said.
“There’s been a shortage of workers in our industry for years, so there’s always jobs, and there’s lots of different avenues you can take. I’m still figuring out exactly where my career will go.”
TAFE NSW Dubbo is a recognised centre for training excellence in the shearing, wool handling and wool classing industry that continues to produce exceptional graduates like Rachel.
TAFE NSW is continually adapting its shearing, wool handling, and wool classing courses across the New England region and Western and Southern NSW to attract new workers to an industry battling a crippling skills shortage. This was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with businesses across regional NSW unable to rely on their usual supply of overseas workers.
“In the New England area, students in Years 11 and 12 can now complete a Certificate II in Shearing as part of a school-based traineeship. This is also available to school students in Western NSW,” Agriculture teacher John Cox said.
“Shearing and wool is a great industry with a huge demand for new employees, travel opportunities, and great income potential. We are doing all we can to attract more workers into the industry.”
“Students like Rachel have the ability to reach real heights within the industry. I would guess that in the future, Rachel will be one of the industry leaders of her generation,” Mr Cox said.
Explore hundreds of traineeships and apprenticeships at TAFE NSW and pursue your passion with life-changing training. For more information visit www.tafensw.edu.au or phone 131 601.
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