Students from schools, colleges, universities and TAFEs have participated in the National Merino Challenge (NMC), learning the skills to carry them into a future in the wool industry.
Almost 100 students from 14 separate educational facilities joined in the AWI initiative, which involves two days of developing industry skills and networks. Students participated in seven ‘mini-challenges’ across two days, testing their knowledge of Merino fleece, production, breeding and selection principles.
Techniques from several well-known industry initiatives, such as MERINOSELECT, Lifetime Ewe Management and Visual Sheep Scores, were used throughout the NMC, giving students a realistic and practical insight into the tools available to growers to make more informed decisions.
Other highlights of the NMC program included a shearing demonstration from world champion shearer Shannon Warnest, a presentation by Deanne Irwin of Australian Wool Network on the importance of effective wool handling techniques and a careers session with young professionals already in the industry.
Winner of the Tertiary division is Belinda Amess, currently studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne. From a superfine property near Caramut in Victoria, she said the two-day event was a valuable experience.
“I’m in my first year at uni, studying a joint Commerce and Ag Science degree, so it was really useful to meet the industry experts here and see the extent of career opportunities there are in the wool industry. Although it’s early days for me, areas I’m interested in include agribusiness, research and wool brokering.”
For the second year running, the individual winner of the secondary school division came from Cummins Area School on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia. Daniel Puckridge said he enjoyed the hands-on skills developed through the NMC.
“I come from a sheep, cattle and cropping property, and am interested in doing an Ag Science degree at uni and maybe going on to be an agronomist. The event was a good opportunity to talk to the all the industry people and hear the plans of the other students – as well as being a competition, it was great networking event.”
Cummins Area School also won the team event in the secondary school division, whilst Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga came out on top in the tertiary division.
Participating schools, TAFEs and universities were:
– Burra Community School, SA
– Cleve Area School, SA
– Cummins Area School, SA
– Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW
– Hay War Memorial High School, NSW
– La Trobe University, Melbourne, Vic
– Lucindale Area School, SA
– Meningie Area School, SA
– TAFE New England, Armidale, NSW
– TAFE Riverina, Wagga Wagga, NSW
– University of Melbourne, Vic
First published in Leading Agriculture Issue 8