In the coming two weeks, Teagasc says it will be writing to all applicants for its part time and distance education Green Cert courses offering them places on the courses.

All applicants who submitted an application on time will be accepted onto one of the courses, it says. The courses will commence in late 2014 and during 2015 and will run over two years.

Teagasc has seen an exceptional level of demand this year for these courses, having received almost 1,500 applications for its Green Cert courses. This is about three times the normal level of applications.

Teagasc has been assessing its capacity to deliver the courses and meet this level of demand. The existing capacity of Teagasc education staff is already fully stretched given the higher numbers of students enrolled in the colleges in recent years and the reduction in teaching staff numbers. This has already resulted in higher class sizes, the redeployment of advisory staff into colleges and the outsourcing of some of the teaching modules.

To meet this new spike in demand in 2014, twenty additional temporary contract staffing resources have been secured and are now in place to help cope with this extra demand. A commitment from the government has been received to provide further additional teaching resources to address frontline education vacancies.

The exceptional increase in demand for Teagasc Green Cert courses is primarily attributed to the introduction of a new EU support scheme for young farmers which comes on stream in 2014. Achieving a Level 6 agricultural qualification (at a minimum the Teagasc Green Cert) is a key eligibility condition for the new Young Farmer Scheme.

Teagasc Head of Education, Tony Pettit said that it’s important from a health and safety perspective that class sizes, particularly for the practical teaching elements, do not become too large, given the dangers of working with livestock and machinery. The additional temporary teaching staff secured will help to ensure that class sizes are close to the international norms for practical agricultural training.