Demand doubles for Teagasc agriculture courses


Education:Demand for agriculture courses run by Teagasc has doubled in the past six years and the organisation has had to redeploy staff from other areas to meet requests.

Its head of education Tony Pettit said the agriculture and food development authority had seen a significant and sustained increase in demand for its courses. In 2006, there were just over 700 first-year college enrolments for Teagasc’s further-education and higher-education courses. That had jumped to almost 1,500 last year. Mr Pettit said the decline in the construction sector was a significant factor. “This has reduced job opportunities for second-level graduates. It has also precipitated a huge reduction in apprenticeship programme intakes,” he said.

A more positive perception of farming was also drawing people towards these courses. “Despite the challenges facing many sectors of farming, an agricultural education is now being viewed in a more positive light by both parents and young people,” Mr Pettit said.

Rise in ‘mature learners’

More than 3,500 people took part in agriculture, horticulture, equine and forestry courses run by Teagasc in 19 agriculture colleges and regional education centres last year.

“School-leavers dominate on agricultural college programmes. However, there has been a small but certainly noticeable increase in the number of mature learners returning to education as a result of the overall economic difficulties.”

Mr Pettit said the dairy sector and Teagasc needed to consider how to address the increased workload that would come with the expected expansion of the dairy sector when quotas ended in 2015.

“This is becoming a very important question for the dairy farming sector,” he said. Under the Food Harvest 2020 agri-food strategy, milk output is targeted to grow by 50 per cent by 2020 and some analysts have suggested Irish dairy farms will need an additional 4,000 or 5,000 staff to meet this target.