The National Merino Challenge (NMC) is a two-day, national competition which improves the engagement of young people with the Merino industry by developing their knowledge, skills and networks.
The NMC is an Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) initiative designed to allow young people to engage with the Merino industry by developing their knowledge, skills and networks, and involves presentations and demonstrations from industry professionals. Students participate in seven ‘mini-challenges’ over two days, testing their knowledge of Merino fleece, production, breeding and selection.
Techniques from several well-known industry initiatives, such as MERINOSELECT, Lifetime Wool, Bredwell Fedwell and Visual Sheep Scores, are used throughout the NMC, giving students a realistic and practical insight into the tools available to growers to make more informed decisions.
The Challenge has two sections – late secondary and tertiary – and is open to years 11 and 12 and tertiary students, Australia-wide. The tertiary sector includes university students and those studying through TAFE or another RTO.
A key part of the NMC is the annual, two-day Train-the-Trainer (TtT) Workshop, which ensures trainers are kept up-to-date with breeding and selection skills and industry knowledge so they can transfer this knowledge to their students. The NMC provides teachers with materials and techniques to prepare their students for the Challenge, as well as providing the students with materials they can use to get ready for the NMC.
Students can choose to do as much or as little work in the lead up to the NMC as they like. Materials are provided to all participants and their teachers to create a more even playing field.
Teams from schools, colleges, universities and TAFEs across Australia meet in Dubbo, NSW for the inaugural NMC in 2013. Since then, AWI has run the NMC three times (2014 in Melbourne, 2015 in Adelaide and 2016 in Sydney), with each year attracting more participants in increasing interest and industry support around Australia.
The 2017 NMC will be held at Melbourne Showgrounds on Saturday, 27 and Sunday, 28 May 2017. Students are required to attend the two-day workshop, which incorporates an industry dinner to allow them to meet key industry figures and have a bit of fun!
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