Shearers hope training programme will attract jobseekers who 'don't want to sit in an office'

The country's shearing industry hopes a new training programme will breathe new life back into the sector.

Nearly $1.9 million has been committed from the Provincial Growth Fund to develop and deliver a training programme for the shearing and wool-handling industry. 

The funding comes as the wool industry is at rock bottom, with the cost of shearing wool higher than what farmers earn from selling it.

Mark Barrowcliffe, president of the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association, says both the Government and the sector are determined to improve the industry, and training is a key part of this.

"We had the best training in the world, world-renowned training - people used to come from overseas just to shear our sheep and use our training systems and we lost that," Barrowcliffe told RNZ on Tuesday.

"We haven't had any Government-funded training for a long time now - probably four to five years in total I think. There's been small business training but very loose and patchy so we recognise that with no training you're only on a one-way street so we want to turn it around."

The training - which would begin with two pilot schemes - would target school leavers, unemployed and underemployed people, those changing careers and also those in the industry who want to learn new skills, he said.

"It's a great way of life. If you don't want to sit in an office… if you like a little hands-on and you don't mind getting dirty - it's marvellous and we want to give the new trainees or the new shearers similar experiences and the comradery that we've had over the years and we feel we're going to let them down if we don't provide them with the skills to be able to achieve this." 

Earlier this month the Government released its plan to revitalise the strong wool sector, recommending a number of actions such as establishing a leadership group to represent the industry and developing a market-focused investment case.

Although the plan's vision was welcomed by the sector, some have called for the Government to do more, such as mandate the use of New Zealand wool in all public buildings and KiwiBuild homes.