22 April 2024

TAFE offers a taste of life as a butcher to meet high demand for new staff

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A group of students in front of a butcher's shop.

Students in the TAFE pilot program learning the tricks of the meat trade. (From left) MINTRAC’s Mark Wadsworth, photographer/videographer Luke Neofytou and participants Kai O’Regan, Benjamin McCarthy, Allan Pond, Nathan Novina, Robert Harvey, Nathan Millett and Andrew Brien. Photo: TAFE NSW.

West Wollongong TAFE is stepping up to help find and train apprentices for butchers who are desperately in need of staff around the country.

Last year the TAFE hosted a pilot program for 10 students which gave them a taste of the industry. A number of the graduates subsequently received interviews with local butcheries.

The three-day Introduction to the Retail Butchery Industry course, a National Meat Industry Training Advisory Council (MINTRAC) initiative supported by TAFE NSW and local job providers, will welcome its second group of students on 29 April.

It comes as retail butchers continue to face strong competition from major supermarkets. The Australian Meat Industry Council says about one-third of independent retail butchers are looking for staff.

MINTRAC Industry Training and Engagement Lead Mark Wadsworth said the feedback from local industry was so positive that Wollongong was again chosen as the host location for the short course.

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“The retail butchery space has been struggling for many years to attract new people to the industry and this is an innovative way to tap into a potential new workforce,” Mark said.

“This is about protecting the longevity of the retail butchery industry and letting locals know there are great careers available in butchery.

“The truth is, you can go down the uni path and be studying for four to six years, or you can got down the VET pathway and start earning immediately.”

As part of the course, which is funded by Training Services NSW’s Trade Pathway program, students get an overview of many aspects of the job, including food safety and manual handling, before visiting five local butcheries and speaking with employers.

TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Meat and Allied Trades Michael Knowles said butchers in the Illawarra desperately needed new people and there were plenty of apprenticeships available.

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“It really is a skill for life and with a TAFE NSW qualification, you could find work anywhere in the country,” he said.

One of the participating businesses will be Wollongong’s Cleaver & Co. Owner-operator Lachy Kerr, who is looking for multiple staff, will run a session during the program.

“It’s great that MINTRAC and TAFE NSW are doing this because we have an ageing workforce and we need to keep exposing potential new entrants to the industry,” he said.

“Courses like this can only benefit the industry.”

TAFE NSW Wollongong West trains all the Illawarra’s butchery apprentices through a mix of workplace and on-campus training.

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