Accredited courses hold key to progress in agriculture

Brigid Quigley: Macra na Feirme Skillnets training network manager

There are not many career paths where you will succeed having only your initial education or qualification in your chosen profession. 

Whether it is mandatory manual handling or a course in Microsoft Excel to a higher diploma in management or an annual CPD programme, the majority of employees and employers upskill and need further training to do their job.

Our objectives, since the organisation’s formation in 1944, is to “provide opportunity for learning the skills and theory of farming” and to “widen the interests of rural youth by increasing their store of general knowledge”. 

Formal accredited courses up to degree level now form the core of agricultural education in Ireland, but encouraging young farmers to see the need and engage in further training is Macra’s goal today.

Necessity is the mother of invention. 

Young Farmers who are serious about making a living and a career, battling volatile incomes, rising input costs, and a fast-changing rural Ireland will be left behind if they are not on top of their game. 

We also know that irrelevant of the topic or course content we all need to be acknowledged and receive recognition for achievement.

The new master of agri skills programme provides a structured framework within which farmers can undertake continuous professional development. 

The need for short specific modules to upskill in areas such as taxation, share arrangements, cashflow management, grass measurement, or machinery calibration and receive recognition for upskilling fills a definite void.

Staying alive is something most of us take for granted, but we are not so naive. 

Working in an industry with truly frightening statistics regarding deaths, serious injuries, and near misses, we are asking our members to take the lead on farm safety.

For quite a few years now we have passively engaged in an awareness campaign around changing the attitude to farm safety. 

We admired the great work done by so many, and we went back to the daily grind, knowing it would never happen to us. Then it did. 

It was our neighbour, our cousin, our best friend’s nephew, or the man who now struggles to get out of the car in the village to buy the paper.

‘Something has to change’ became the mantra. Well it has and we are starting the change. All that’s needed is for you to decide you will change with us. 

Farm accidents, rural isolation, suicide, and mental health problems are endemic in rural life. Our commitment to further training and education for young farmers can address all of the above. 

Safe agri skills is the first and only of its kind — a farm safety training course covering all the basics and the major causes of accidents in agriculture. Modules include tractor safety, livestock handling, manual handling, first aid and health as well as optional extras like chainsaw use and ATV or quad bike safety.

Only in agriculture is something like this seen as revolutionary.

In any other industry it’s just done, no questions asked. You do not show up to work unless your safety training is up to date. 

Farmers are in the main self-employed so there is no one standing over us — beginning with young farmers we are asking you take responsibility for yourself and your future, for your family.

Complete the training, don’t wait for it to be too late, hindsight is a great thing — just do it.

Credit where it’s due, a number of other leaders in the agri-industry have stepped up and will help us to help you. ABP Food Group Ireland has provided some financial backing to spread the word and get you your safe agri skills card.

Several training providers and FBD insurance, the HSA, and others have provided advice and support.

We are fully aware we cannot change the statistics on our own. A new culture and a new attitude is the only way. 

We have to become learning centred as an industry, instead of questioning the need for reports and audits and training we have to see it as central to our very existence.

Macra na Feirme is stepping up to its responsibilities to educate. We see it as vital to the future of Irish agriculture and to keep a vibrant rural life that provides the backbone to so much of our culture.

Our training courses are part-funded by Skillnets through the national training fund of the Department of Education and Skills.


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