Shearer

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 Openings 5 years to November 2020: < 5,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $951 to $1,100 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment projections to 2020
Brief Shearers use handpieces that are equipped with combs and cutters to remove the wool from sheep.

There are currently around 900 shearers employed in South Australia. Employment is mostly seasonal to areas, with shearers travelling to different areas to work the whole year. Employment is not gender specific, although some physical fitness is needed. Employment is located outside the Adelaide metropolitan area. Shearing takes place on farms, with a shed lasting anywhere from one day to one month.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Shearer

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Introduction

Wool is still one of Australia's largest exports, and the technology used in shearing today is essentially the same as that used a hundred years ago. However, handpieces, shearing plants, and combs and cutters have improved. It takes approximately 3 minutes to shear a sheep, and more experienced shearers may shear up to 200 sheep per day.

Education Requirements

No educational qualifications are required to become a shearer although a Certificate II in Shearing and on the job training is recommended. Shearers usually start as Wool Handlers until they become proficient enough to shear approximately 80 sheep per day. It can take three to five years to become a truly competent shearer. Many shearers are still learning new techniques after many years. Certificate III in Shearing training will assist you to learn the latest techniques and increase your wage earning capacity by improving daily tallies.

TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Certificate II in Shearing for students over the age of 16. Other courses associated with this occupation include the Certificate II in Wool Handling for Wool Handlers.

TAFE SA offers five day introductory courses covering both Certificate II in Shearing and Certificate in Wool Handling for novices. TAFE SA also provide improver level courses, staying on farm and running from 5 days up to 15 days encompassing both Certificate II and Certificate III training.

Career Path

Shearers can be self-employed or work in a shearing team on properties usually located in country areas. They are paid according to the number of sheep they shear and crutch. Shearers can develop their skills to improve earnings and may progress to shed management, wool classing or other areas of the wool industry.

Due to the high demand nationally for shearers and wool-handlers employment prospects are very good. It is not as seasonal as it once was, and there is work all year round for those willing to travel. Shearing takes place in many countries with opportunities to travel the world applying their trade.

Nature of the Job

Most shearers now travel out from home to the property where the shearing is being conducted. When they stay over, it's called a camp-out or expedition shearing. Shearers own and maintain their own equipment and perform many tasks other than the main process of shearing fleece from sheep. They have to capture the sheep in a catching-pen and drag it to the shearing machine. This work is physically demanding and correct handling techniques are needed.

You need good balance, reflexes and sheep handling skills in order to maintain control over the sheep while shearing. Warm up exercises are an important preparation for the strenuous work of shearing and are recommended to avoid injuries. Back strain is a hazard of the job. New ideas for wool harvesting are being trialled which will eliminate the need for shearers to drag sheep from the pen. However, professionally trained shearers will still be required to operate the handpiece and remove fleece from the sheep in the traditional way.

Typical Physical Working Environment

Shearers need to be physically fit, efficient and methodical. This work can be uncomfortable as most shearing is done in hot tin sheds on farms and stations. A good diet and regular fluid intake is important so that shearers maintain adequate reserves of energy to continue working. The working day is fairly regimented. It consists of four 2 hour runs starting at 7.30am and finishing at 5.30pm. There are two 30 minute breaks throughout the day and a one hour break for lunch.

Most shearers work in a team, ranging anywhere from 3 people to over 30 for a large team, most commonly there are 10 or 12 workers on a team. Work is seasonal. The main shearing seasons are in autumn and spring, with work slowing down in winter and prior to Christmas. Some shearers work part-time on other work on farms during the off-season periods. Other shearers travel around to different regions of the State to pick up continuous shearing work.

Typical Occupational Example

While males have typically performed this work in the past, females interested in becoming shearers are being encouraged by people in the industry to check it out. While there are jobs in many parts of Australia, South Australia has a large share of Shearers. Most people start out as wool-handlers. Their job is to keep the shed clean, pen the sheep and take the shorn fleece to the table where other wool-handlers prepare the fleece into bales. The first steps for learners are how to hold the sheep and then how to hold the shearing equipment. After learning how to shear a sheep, the key skill to learn is how to shear large numbers of sheep. Because, until a person can shear 80 sheep a day, they are only paid woolhandler rates. Beyond that they are classed as 'improvers' and can be employed as shearers and receive piecework rates. Learners/wool handlers often gain experience by finishing off sheep shorn by shearers or practice on the end of the run.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online