IWTO Young Professionals at the 2019 Congress in VeniceThe wool industry is seeking to build a new generation of leaders to carry it into the future. The International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) has been running a successful Young Professionals programme since 2012. The programme offers mentorship and networking opportunities to people under the age of 35. Each young professional is matched with a senior member of the industry so that they can gain valuable insights and experience to help them grow as industry leaders.

Attracting Young Professional to The Wool Industry

The IWTO Congress 2021 was held from 17 to 21 May, and a number of previous Young Professionals spoke about their experience of the program and how it has prepared them for a career in the industry. Christa Rochford, Wool Marketing Program Manager for the American Wool Council, said that she entered the industry seven years ago after stumbling across it. “It is a wonderful industry once you’re a part of it, but there is still work to be done in sharing our story and inspiring people to make wool a career, who had never considered it or come across it before.” This is one of the main objectives of the Young Professionals programme and similar initiatives by the IWTO, American Wool Council and other industry bodies. Sustainability in the wool industry is one of the IWTO’s key values, and it is one that extends beyond the product itself. The people who make up the industry are also an important consideration.

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Opportunities for Young Professionals in The Industry

A presentation by the China Wool Textile Association sums up the opportunities for young people in the wool industry. Although the presentation focuses on China, the trends are similar throughout the sector all over the world. The sector offers more promising career opportunities for young professionals as opposed to more competitive industries in which the labour supply is relatively plentiful. The industry also offers the chance to acquire a unique set of skills that people would generally not be exposed to in other sectors. Lastly, the world of fashion marketing is rapidly transforming, as social media and influencers start to dominate the area – this opens a niche into which younger professionals can easily fit.

Australian Wool Innovation Limited, in its strategic plan for the national wool industry – Wool 2030 – explains that the growth projected for the next decade will only take place if there are sufficient growers with the appropriate skills. This presents a challenge because universities are offering fewer wool specialist courses than they were before wool production began to decline in the 1990s. There is also less funding available for research and development. Skilled workers such as shearers and other contractors are becoming harder to come by in the current labour market. All of these points present opportunities as well as challenges. The aim of the IWTO and its affiliates is to highlight the opportunities in the sector to young people who are seeking to carve out careers for themselves. In turn, increased interest in the sector will help to deal with some of the challenges it faces.

There are several wool textile companies that are showing their commitment to growing the industry by supporting specialised educational programs. One example is Marzotto Group, who are sponsoring a two-year diploma course in Fashion Sustainability. The fashion house will be offering space inside its mills, in Valdagno, Italy, where classes can be held when the course launches in October 2021.

Learn More About the Wool Industry and its Future

The IWTO is the global authority for standards in the wool textile industry. If you are wondering where to source recycled wool yarn and fabric, visit our website for a detailed list on the many IWTO Members, their product descriptions and contact details here..

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