Need for agri education and training set to intensify

The need for education and training across the land sector will intensify over the coming years and decades, delegates at the Teagasc ‘Education Vision – meeting future needs’ conference heard today.

Speaking at the event in Kilkenny, Teagasc director, Prof. Gerry Boyle, stressed that issues such as sustainability, climate change, smart technologies, changing consumer requirements and future policy direction all have profound implications for agri-food in the future.

Prof. Boyle emphasised that, at farm-level, the pressure to be efficient, competitive and business-oriented will intensify.

“The next generation of young farmers will need to break with traditional views and conventional wisdom to fully maximise the potential of their farm resources,” Prof. Boyle said.

Head of education in Teagasc, Tony Pettit, stated that the future will see fewer, but better-educated farmers.

The Teagasc Education Vision consultation noted the existing strengths of Teagasc. However, Pettit emphasised, that future Teagasc education will need to enable learners to meet even wider and deeper skill set requirements.

Personal skill sets

“While technical skills will always be crucial, personal skill sets – such as problem-solving, and learning to learn – will be of equal if not greater importance in the 21st century,’’ the head of education added.

Frank Murphy, Teagasc curriculum development and standards unit manager, outlined how the Teagasc educational pathways are evolving.

He highlighted that a Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Agriculture should be the minimum qualification for entrants to the sector, with a Level 7 apprenticeship in Farm Management as the target Teagasc programme for future farm managers and owners.

Alan Jagoe, a dairy and tillage farmer from Co. Cork and member of the Teagasc authority, highlighted the issue of generational renewal as a major challenge for the land sector.

He said: “Land mobility will be vital to sustaining the land sector but the land sector needs to able to offer attractive, viable career paths to attract new blood”.

The 250 conference attendees also participated in seminars relating to professional development, learner work placement, gender diversity in land sector study and careers, and the implications arising from ‘smart agriculture’.

‘Personal competence’

Well-known broadcaster and consultant Dr. Maureen Gaffney reiterated the importance of fostering personal competence in agricultural education and the importance of internal farm family discussions on potentially sensitive issues such as succession.

The Teagasc Education Vision Conference concludes a comprehensive two-year review and consultation process regarding future needs.

The Education Vision report will act as a roadmap for the future direction of Teagasc education.