Read this interesting Q&A with our newly appointed Chair, Ryan Cosgrove.
“For almost my first 6 years of being an exporter I was the youngest person in the auction room – and to me, that’s a huge failure. We need more skills, more youth, and more diversity in our hiring.”
Where did you grow up and what initiated your passion for wool?
I grew up in Country NSW, originally on the property of a cotton processing facility (called a ‘gin’). When I moved to NZ as a teenager I found a summer job at a wool broker – Wright Wool. “Found” is a bit of a stretch, Philippa’s son and my younger brother are best friends so she was aware of my availability. I came in on Christmas Eve one year to help press out, and was told at the end of the day “Merry Christmas, we start back on the 27th, see you then.” And I haven’t left the industry since.
Wool was my summer job while I studied for a BSc in Ecology and Biodiversity at Victoria Uni. Each summer I learned a new core skill; pressing, truck driving, and then two seasons learning to class and grade wool. When I finished my degree I decided to continue in wool and moved to Christchurch to learn about exporting and trading.
What is your role at Carrfields and what steps have you taken to get there?
I manage the wool programme at Carrfields. We have tried to change the way wool is traded by having brands and growers work collaboratively on the sustainability of contracts, while we manage the supply chain between the two. Carrfields is also diving into hemp as fibre, so I oversee our R&D programme which has a heavy focus on hemp/wool hybrid textiles.
It’s exciting to have you on the CFW Board- what are you bringing to the Board that is different from what we have seen before ?-
YOUTH! I have closely followed the CFW while I have come up in the industry, and I am a huge advocate of what it does. As wool took a dive from 2016 – Now, I felt a real push to be more involved with industry good but bringing the perspective of someone with a stronger tech background as well as a marketing and strategy focus.
The NZ strong wool industry is at a low- what do we need to do to change- albeit you can’t do it alone but you must have some thoughts on what you would like to see happen
There is a lot to change for sure. Slowly, slowly we will get there. There are a lot of very talented people pushing in different areas for success. My personal number one issue, though, is the lack of skilled young people we attract into the industry. If we reduced the industry to a representative sample of 10 people it would be 10 almost identical people who somehow still manage to disagree with each other.
I’m a firm believer we need to look to graduates and trainees who have no idea about wool but bring a skill that we need – and then teach them about wool. We also should be promoting that this is a cool industry to work in with a ton of unique perks. It’s outdoors, it’s international, and it’s got some challenges that will need smart people to start solving, but we keep hiring the farmer’s son, a mate from the rugby club, or people with Ag degrees (who were already converted) and ignore the 98% of other skilled graduates. I think for almost my first 6 years of being an exporter I was the youngest person in the auction room – and to me, that’s a huge failure. We need more skills, more youth, and more diversity in our hiring.