South African farmers seek Irish internships

An organisation that helps young people – mainly from impoverished rural communities – to become farmers is keen to make Irish connections with a view to starting internships.

Judy Stuart of Future Farmers recently contacted AgriLand to appeal for assistance in developing placements on Irish farms. “We work through apprenticeships. So participants go onto farms: dairy; beef; sheep; pigs; poultry; horticulture; and much more.

“Some of them are graduates from universities and colleges who lack practical experience. Either way, they start on farms on minimum wage at the bottom and work their way up,” she said.

They are learning and earning so it is a sustainable way of getting where they want to be.

“If they do very well, we then send them on internships overseas. At the moment, we send them to the US and to Australia. Our sponsors fund the costs, but the interns pay us back and we use the money to send more interns,” said Judy.

When asked about visa difficulties, Judy said that they have worked through registered agencies in the US and Australia, and that visa documentation had been prepared in conjunction with them.

Labour

“Our interns have a good reputation and there is a good demand for them. We understand there is a shortage of skilled labour in Ireland and that there may be internship opportunities there. From a dairy perspective, what is important to us, is that the interns have pasture experience as ours is a pasture province,” Judy said.

“They should be valuable to the farmers and the experience that they gain is invaluable to them and will help them with their careers.

Judy added that internships improve the long-term employment prospects of the candidates, which is important to Future Farmers.

Our policy is not to provide handouts but rather to create opportunities for them to do it for themselves. We provide soft skill mentorship and guidance.

“Our interns are all English-speaking and communication should not be a difficulty beyond maybe taking a week or so to become familiar with the Irish accent,” said Judy.

“Before we send interns, they would have at least two years of practical experience with computer skills. They are all specialists in their fields. We only send people that we feel are worthy representatives of our organisation and of our country.”

Further details about Future Farmers are available on the foundation’s website.