About the Australian Wool Textiles Training Centre

The Australian Wool Textiles Training Centre (AWTTC) was established as a partnership between Australian Wool Innovation, The International Fibre Centre and the Australian Wool Education Trust. The first AWTTC program was delivered at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) world class textile and fibre technology precinct in Geelong (Victoria) in October 2007.

Australia is the world’s largest producer of fine wool and is responsible for more than 50% of global apparel wool supply. In addition, it is the international leader in research and development for wool.

Industry experts, educators and researchers combined to present this training program which was specifically designed for wool industry practitioners to improve their knowledge and skills in the use of Australian wool.

The AWTTC program was unique in that it was the first time an integrated set of courses from sheep’s back to retail had been offered. It was designed for professionals working in the Australian and international wool production, processing and marketing pipeline to take their skills and knowledge to new levels of excellence.

The program of seven courses was run during October 2007 and a second program of 6 course was rerun in 2008. Both were aimed at all sectors of the wool textile pipeline including growers, brokers, buyers, service providers, processors and textile manufacturers, designers, retailers and merchandisers. Senior students, teachers and trainers would have also found these courses valuable.

The three funding bodies invested a total $579,139 with registration fees contributing a further $93,832. However, this investment was for a pilot program with four objectives:

  1. Develop at least seven pilot courses addressing training needs of the international wool textile industry;
  2. Deliver at least seven pilot courses involving a minimum of 105 participants;
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot courses (“Pilot Program”) over a two year period;
  4. At the completion of the pilot program determine the feasibility of establishing an AWTTC as a permanent facility.

The final  AWTTC Management Committee Report made the following recommendations:

  1. Funding Model
    If the AWTTC is to continue there will be a need for on-going subsidisation of its operations. However, the IP that has been created should require minimal further development investment in the short to medium term, so most of the costs will be operational.
    The funding partners need to decide if they are prepared to continue to contribute further funds on an ongoing basis. In order to minimise these contributions the fee for attendees should be increased to a level commensurate with the cost/attendee achieved in the second year of the program. An annual subsidy of approximately $100,000 would therefore be required for the delivery of the 4 courses identified above.
  2. Management Model
    One of the funding partners must take direct overall responsibility for managing the activities of the AWTTC. The IFC has indicated that it will not continue at its current level of direct involvement, and AWET does not have the staff resources required. Consequently this role will need to be undertaken by AWI, and any new Management Agreement will need to reflect this role.
  3. Participation
    CSIRO and Deakin University both elected to become participants on the Management Committee rather than Parties to the Agreement. Continued involvement by Deakin is desirable but that of CSIRO is absolutely essential.
    Accordingly, the continued commitment of CSIRO to the AWTTC concept must be secured, preferably as a Party to any future agreement.
    Active involvement of other industry organisations should also be enabled.

These recommendations were not followed through, largely because CSIRO signalled the closure of its facilities in Geelong. The materials produced for the second program were retained by AWET are are available here.

Courses Offered

Course 1: Introduction to the Australian Wool Industry

This course will provides an understanding of the Australian wool industry; its history, production profile, markets and market trends and transformation of the fibre from sheep’s back to final product. It also presents a unique opportunity to understand how decisions affecting the purchasing, processing and marketing of wool products are communicated up and down the pipeline from retail to the wool producer.

Included were visits to view shearing, broker’s operations, testing, auction selling as well as manufacturing processes.

This course is a valuable pre-requisite for those intending to undertake any of the following 5 courses.

Course 2: Buying and Consignment Preparation of Australia Wool

Control over raw material inputs is imperative for the success and profitability of wool manufacturing operations. Specifications that truly reflect a company’s product requirements provide genuine competitive advantage.

This course outlined the role of the wool buyer and exporter, wool valuing, wool selection to meet the customer’s price limits, use of objective measurements to meet a customer’s specifications, purchasing and selling options, price risk management, consignment building and export and finance documentation as well as contracting and dispute resolution procedures.  It will outline the historical open-cry auction system in addition to the new web-based, electronic data communication networks for the delivery of sales catalogues, results, wool delivery orders and sale invoices.

Participants also took part in a simulated practical wool valuing and auction exercise.

Course 3: Wool Topmaking and Early Stage Processing

This course was specially designed for Chinese participants. It providea an overview of all steps required to purchase and assemble wool for processing including instruction on how wool buyers make up mill consignments to meet customers requirements. Participants also saw shearing & clip preparation practices on a working Australian sheep farm. This was followed by visits to wool testing facilities of the Australian Wool Testing Authority and then to the show-floor to see how wool clips are offered for sale, valued and auctioned. Industry and research experts then provided detailed instruction on blending, scouring and topmaking techniques according to best international practice. Participants were instructed in the use of prediction and quality measuring systems using ‘TEAM 3’ (for predicting combing performance from greasy wool parameters), ‘Topmaker’ (software for determining top characteristics), ‘Topmark’ (a free benchmarking service for international processing mills and topmakers) and ‘Yarnspec’ (a software package that predicts spinning performance based upon properties of the input top).

A practical processing trial took place during the course which enabled participants to gain practical experience on greasy wool selection, scouring, combing and quality control.

Emphasis was placed on practical and commercial aspects of early stage wool processing.

This course was presented in English with Chinese translation provided.

Participation in Course1 was a recommended prerequisite for this course.

Course 4: Contemporary Wool Dying and Finishing

The colour and handle of a textile product is one of its most important aesthetic properties. However, dyeing and finishing wool can be challenging to the unskilled – though learning modern dyeing and finishing practices that are firmly based on a systematic, scientific approach assures the enhancement of wools natural qualities.

This course provided those presently in industry with a detailed understanding of modern wool dyeing and finishing methods and practice It provided clear guidance on how theoretical principles are translated into practical processing procedures. Considerable emphasis was placed on testing and objective measurement as the criteria for evaluating the success of procedures in order to meet customer requirements.

As this is an intensive course consisting of comprehensive and detailed practical information, participants were expected to be industry practitioners and professionals.

Course 5: Innovations in Wool Textile Technology

Australia is the global leader in wool science and innovation and continues to lead the world with its research and development aimed at enhancing the strength of the global wool demand. The focus of this course will be on the development of leading edge products for global markets, as well as innovative practices and processes to improve productivity and efficiency amongst wool producers and processors.

This course provided participants with an increased understanding of innovation and its importance to commercial success. It will introduce many recent innovations suitable for industry adoption and outline the development and commercialization of current and future wool based innovations that capitalise on the properties of Australian wool fibre.

Course 6: Australian Wool – knowledge for designers & retailers

This course was designed to introduce designers, merchandisers, and retailers to the Australian wool fibre, its unique characteristics and applications. It provided participants with an understanding of the processing route from fibre to fabric; 21st century advanced manufacturing methodologies and high tech innovations. Also included was a tour of CSIRO’s extensive processing facilities providing a comprehensive understanding of the manufacturing processes involved in converting raw wool fibre to luxurious garments for the global market.

Participants also had an option to participate in day of practical designing and leading edge software applications at RMIT University’s CAD design and sampling studio at its School of Fashion and Textiles in Melbourne.