Development of new farm apprenticeships gathers pace

Approval has been given for the development of two new national farm apprenticeships in a bid to tackle mounting concerns over labour shortages in the sector.

It is understood that the Department of Education and Skills has given the green light to the development of a Farm Manager Level 7 apprenticeship and Farm Technician Level – based on proposals submitted by Teagasc on behalf of the land sector.

The development of a national apprenticeship involves a 10-step process overseen by an industry based consortium.

It is understood that the farm apprenticeships consortium – consisting of John O’Brien (consortium chair), Frank Murphy (Teagasc’s head of curriculum development and standards unit) and Tony Pettit (Teagasc’s head of education) – met on a number of occasions throughout 2018 to progress the proposed Farm Manager and Farm Technician apprenticeships.

Final approval of the apprenticeships sits with the Apprenticeship Council and Quality and Qualifications Ireland.

At this point in the development process, the consortium is briefing stakeholders on progress to date and is seeking views on various aspects of the proposed apprenticeships.

A Farm Apprenticeship Workshop, organised by Teagasc, will take place at the Lyrath Hotel in Co. Kilkenny today (Wednesday, November 21).

The Government has previously stated its commitment to more than doubling the number of new apprentices registered to 9,000 by 2020 and expanding further into new areas.

Budget 2018 allocated €122 million for apprenticeship training – an increase of almost 24% on the previous year.

Although the providers of the apprenticeships are mostly third-level colleges or education and training boards, last year it was revealed that Teagasc, the agricultural research body, would also take a role in the development of new schemes including: applied horticulture; farm management; and sport-turf management.

Meeting demands

Concerns over the availability of farm labour were recently highlighted by the new chairman of Teagasc, Liam Herlihy at a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The former Glanbia chairman – who has also served as FBD chairman – said that, with the building trade picking up, workers would be leaving the agricultural sector.

“One thing that I would be very conscious of is labour and the availability of labour is hugely important, particularly in an agri context.

The building boom is about to get going again, and that certainly will take people from the agri space as it did in the past. So non-Irish people are something that is important.

“But equally it is important that they be well paid, well accommodated and well treated within the agri sector to ensure that we have continuity of supply there,” the chairman contended.

Meanwhile, according to Teagasc’s ‘The People in Dairy Project’ report, the Irish dairy sector needs 6,000 people to enter dairy farming by 2025 in order to meet the sector’s labour requirements