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Wool Classers

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Good; employment in this occupation is expected to remain strong in the fore-seeable future.
Salary Range $25,000 to $35,000 plus
Brief An eye for detail and being able to tell the difference between a poor, average and high quality product, is what you'll need in the wool, hide and skin classing occupations.

Employment is largely casual/seasonal, however some wool classers gain full time employment with a wool brokering firm with most wool classers working in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry. Both female and male students are well represented as wool classers as an occupational career path with the majority of the work opportunities occurring outside of the Adelaide metropolitan area. This occupation has a younger age profile with just around a quarter of workers aged 45 years or older.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Wool Classers

Accredited (Award)

Introduction

Classers grade wool, hide or skin into categories according to factors such as the length of the wool, strength of the wool, quality of the wool, grease content, skin thickness, breed, colour of the fleece/wool and yield characteristics. Classers usually work as either wool classers or hide and skin classers.
Wool classers employed in shearing sheds also take on the role of a mentor to in-experienced staff members employed (wool handlers) to prepare the wool once it has been shorn from the sheep, and a shed manager/supervisor whilst shearing of the wool growers flock is being carried out.

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Education Requirements

To work as a wool classer, you must be fit and be prepared to work in a team environment. Of the current Wool Hide and Skin Classers the majority have gained their registration status from AWEX by completing a Certificate III or IV level course.

TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Certificate IV in Wool Classing. Pathways include the Certificate II in Wool Handling, Certificate III in Advanced Wool Handling and Certificate III in Wool Clip Preparation.

SA Apprenticeships are available in this occupation for further information go to the Traineeship & Apprenticeship Services Website at http://www.skills.sa.gov.au/apprenticeships-traineeships or phone the Freecall number 1800 673 097.

Career Path

This industry has been affected over the past number of years by a general downturn in the wool industry and relatively low sheep numbers but the industry has seen a resurgence and is bouncing back strongly with wool prices at records levels for some wool types; in-short there is an optimistic outlook for wool by many growers.
Wool classers may further their career options by taking up employment opportunities with wool brokers as wool area managers or stock agents, gaining employment as farm or station managers or finding employment in allied industries involving sheep and wool. Some even come back to TAFESA as instructors.
Demand for wool classers in shearing sheds is helped due to the high employee turnover rate within the occupation.

Industries

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing,  Manufacturing,  Wholesale Trade

Nature of the Job

Wool classers classify sheep's wool. Wool classing is generally carried out in an operational shearing shed or a classing house. A classing house is where farmers send their wool for sorting, where their wool clip or small bale groups are prepared for sale.

Wool is prepared broadly speaking on a group of basic characteristics or principles; these are Wool Length, Wool Strength, Wool Quality number, Colour of the wool, Condition of the greasy product (the amount of wax in the wool) and Wool Crimp definition (Character of the wool). Irrespective of the fact that if wool is perceived to be either good or bad it must be prepared to a standard so as it attracts it greatest monetary potential at the time of sale.

On the other hand, hide and skin classers class cattle hide after the hide has been removed at an abattoir. The value of the pelt (skin) for sale is the key consideration.

Once a skin is removed it needs to be cured. Some common forms of curing are wet salting by drum agitation or conveyor salting. The skins must be cured within a few hours of slaughter. Specially prepared kiln dried salt containing concentrations of bactericides and special fungicides are also used.

Typical Physical Working Environment

As most classers are service providers to the agricultural industry, the availability of work depends upon activity in this area. For example, wool classers are in demand during the shearing season, but must be willing to follow work during the quieter periods. Classers can also work in farm produce wholesaling, with some hide and skin classers involved in meat product manufacturing. A small number of wool classers are self employed, though most are employed by shearing contractors, wool brokers and woollen mills. Wool, hide and skin classers are also responsible for keeping computer records, training and leading a team of workers and may be asked to give advice in their areas of expertise.

Typical Occupational Example

Classers typically work in sheds or large warehouses and the working conditions can be physically demanding. You can look forward to the prospect of being on your feet for most of the day, moving about regularly (not chained to a desk), working often in a rural environment and working in a team of likeminded people as yourself.
Wool classers are pretty much on the go throughout the day with being active, incorporating bending and lifting as a key work role in this type of occupation.

Earning Potential

Wool classers (employed in shearing sheds) should be earning about $250 a day (as a minimum). Wool classers earning potential is significantly improved if they are employed in larger shearing sheds.
As an example a classer employed in a large pastoral shed where 1,000 plus sheep are shorn per day they are paid by the fleece (piecework rate), with the current award rate for this type of work around the 31 cents a fleece mark.
As the work is seasonal, a wool classers earning potential is dependent on how much employment they are able to source from shearing contractors or wool growers. However a wool classer who actively pursues work should be able to gain 9 – 10 months employment per year.

Further Information

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