A free two-week training course aimed at addressing labour shortages in the sheep industry has been a great success, according to course coordinator Basil Parker.
The course, sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation Limited, ran from Monday, July 1, until Friday, July 12, with each of the 14 participants gaining both shearing and shed hand experience.
With the industry experiencing a shortage, and many current workers approaching retirement, Mr Parker said the course was about attracting more young people to the industry.
"It's gone really well," he said.
"Originally, the idea to have a shearing school came out of ASHEEP because, as a group of farmers, ASHEEP recognised there is a shortage in the industry.
"The contractors in town who employ these people also recognised this shortage, as well as those in the industry that are getting older.
"When you look at the demographic, it's obvious there is going to be a gap there.
"That's why we needed to get this up and happening.
"Some of these young people are in situations where they haven't got vehicles or driver's licences - that's why we made a point of doing a pick up each morning and making sure the travel didn't deter anyone.
"AWI [Australian Wool Innovation Limited] financed everything and, without them on board, this course wouldn't have happened.
"It's been a great outcome and it's amazing, just the way they've embraced the training."
Upon completion, course organisers will contact local contractors to help trainees secure full-time employment in the field. Mr Parker said he believed helping to facilitate future employment opportunities for participants was essential.
"I think it would be amiss of us if we didn't do that follow up," he said.
"I think if we walk away from this course and leave them to their own devices, it would be difficult for them to find that work. They need the encouragement and they need the support."
Once the pilot program has been reviewed, Mr Parker said he hoped it would run again as he believed it was essential to combatting the labour shortage, which was a statewide issue.
"If we can make it happen again next year, I think it's essential," he said.
"This was just a pilot program, of course we need to see what the end result is.
"But, if that happens, if we get half a dozen people from this course working in the industry, it's worthwhile doing it again.
"In the short term, this [program] is something I see combatting this [labour] shortage. It's about giving young people exposure to the industry.
"The gap that we can see there, as a result of the industry's older demographic, we can certainly see being there for three, four, five years even.
"We've had fantastic support and that's helped to make it a success."
Mr Parker thanked the shearing contractors of Esperance who had supported the program, including Bay of Isles Shearing, TV Financial director Tamara Virgo, the trainers, Epasco Farms, and Australian Wool Innovation Limited.