Montana Wool Growers Association
In the US, shortage of sheep shearing professionals is becoming a consideration for those wanting to expand wool and sheep production. With sheep numbers slowly declining in the US from 6.9 million head in 2001 to 5.3 million head in 2016, there is fewer people interested in becoming a trained shearer. Finding foreign labor during the Australian off-season has also become problematic because of delays in obtaining work visas and because there is a worldwide shortage of shearers. The average shearer in Australia is 56 and it would seem close to that in America. There is a critical need for skilled wool harvesting professionals and there are very limited opportunities for traditional on-the-job training to meet this need;
Currently, there are several entry-level shearing schools, but not many intermediate shearing schools or advanced training to develop a professional shearer. Often, a beginning shearer will either 1) focus on small-flock shearing where professional quality and output is not as critical or 2) a beginner shearer will get a stand with a shearing contractor for a year possibly two and then quit because they haven’t gotten their numbers up to make a decent income. The contractor has then lost HIS investment of time and energy in the apprentice also resulting in an open stand he will need to try and fill from another resource;
Secondly, quite often beginning students will get equipment gifted to them, without commitment in return. Those putting on the schools lose the long-term investment;
Project Objectives: The American Sheep Shearer Development Partnerships’ objective is to provide a two-year educational program for someone interested in shearing sheep or in wool handling like a trade degree at a state university;
Description of efforts-anticipated results: American Sheep Shearer Development Partnerships has recruited six individuals for the program to this date with two additional tentative participants. Three students will be in Australia by Sept. 1, 2017, with the other three
committing to a shearing contractor for the American spring run and for fall 2018 sponsorship to Australia; Two of the individuals had quit the shearing trade and found other jobs, but when they heard of the concentrated two-year training program they saw the significance of this opportunity and have made a commitment to the sponsorship program. The anticipated results are that the American Sheep Shearer Development Partnerships program would sponsor 3 new students each year.