Good growth: demand for agri-courses is high

Daniel Hession says plentiful jobs and linking of Level-6 qualification to CAP top-up cited as reasons.

AGRICULTURE courses have become more popular over the last few years, with Leaving Certificate students eyeing up the potentially job-rich sector.

Last year, Central Applications Office (CAO) statistics showed the sharpest rise in demand, of 10%, was for agriculture courses.

Applications are likely to increase again, this year — not least because of the latest incentive to obtain a qualification of at least Level-6, or equivalent.

That is the minimum educational requirement to qualify for the CAP reform 25% top-up on EU direct payments, as confirmed by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney last week.

Payable on up to 50 hectares for farmers aged under 40 years, it’s worth up to €16,000 over five years.

It’s designed to encourage young people to take up farming, and is likely to add to the number of this year’s Leaving Certificate students for whom choosing an agriculture-related college course is imminent (see article on non-CAO Level 6 courses on page 4)

On Saturday, Feb 1, at 5.15pm, applications for undergraduate courses in Irish higher-education institutions close at the CAO (see www.cao.ie website).

There is a wide range of agriculture and agriculture-related courses in many colleges and universities across the country.

The courses on offer for 2014 are summarised in the accompanying table.

* UCD offers Ireland’s only level-8 degree course in agricultural science. There is a wide range of subjects to choose from as a major, including animal- and crop-production, animal science, and dairy business.

Each of the 12 entry routes at UCD has a similar first year, to give students a strong foundation in the core sciences, maths, and economics, which are needed for the rest of the course.

DN250 (Agricultural Science) students at UCD sample introductory modules from all the courses in first year, which gives them a flavour of the subsequent stages of each of the degrees.

UCD have one new entry route for 2014, DN272, horticulture and agri-environmental sciences: (selecting one of) horticulture, landscape and sports turf management (HLS), or agri-environmental sciences (AES).

* Cork Institute of Technology offers a level-7 bachelor of science in agriculture degree of three years’ duration.

Students attend both CIT and Clonakilty Agricultural College throughout the course.

The course develops farming, business, and management skills to enable graduates to follow careers as successful commercial farmers, or in the agri-business sector.

The programme content includes one-third business modules and two-thirds agriculture or science-based modules.

Graduates can progress to complete the one-year, add-on BSc honours in agriculture.

* Galway Mayo Institute of Technology offers a level-7 course of three years duration.

Year-one students spend four days per week at Mountbellew Agricultural College, and one day per week at GMIT in Galway.

In first year, students gain an understanding in business and economics, studying modules such as environmental science, economics, accountancy and business statistics.

In year two, a wide range of modules is offered, including drystock production, farm management and marketing.

Career prospects include part-time/full-time farmers, or employment as agricultural officers with the Department of Agriculture, or as field technicians.

* Tralee Institute of Technology offers a level-7 bachelor of science in agricultural science degree course of three years’ duration.

The BSc in agriculture science programme will provide students with a strong grounding in science.

Students study modules such as animal, crop and environmental science, as well as business-based modules.

An agricultural placement will form part of third year, to help students build skills and apply knowledge from lectures.

Modules are delivered at IT Tralee and Teagasc’s Clonakilty Agriculture College.

Progression to a level-8 course is possible, after completion of the BSc course at IT Tralee. It is expected that the course will fulfil the requirements for the Teagasc Green Cert.

* Waterford Institute of Technology has two courses currently running in agriculture — a BSc in agriculture and a BSc in agricultural science.

Both of these are level-7 courses that run for three years.

The BSc in agriculture is more practical, and students will spend four days a week, in first year, in Kildalton Agricultural College, and will also go on a work-placement in second year, which can include international placements.

The BSc in agricultural science gives students a very good grounding in the sciences.

Students also spend some time in Kildalton Agricultural College, over the course of their three years, but not as much as in the BSc in agriculture.

Due to the stronger science background of this course, students have additional progression course options.

“The majority of our graduates are in employment in the agri-food industry in Ireland. Jobs include technical sales, management and advisory roles, as well as some returning to farming,” says Emer Delaney, PR executive at WIT.

* Dundalk Institute of Technology offers a level-6 course in agriculture; after two years, students receive a higher cert in science in agriculture.

The programme combines science, business, and animal husbandry to train students to be become effective farmers or farm managers.

First-year subjects include animal and crop production, agricultural mechanisation, and farm business management.

The programme is based in Ballyhaise Agriculture College in Co Cavan, and Dundalk IT.

* Letterkenny IT also offer a level-6 higher certificate in science in applied agriculture course of two years’ duration. The course covers science, food science, veterinary nursing and electrical/mechanical engineering.

First-year modules include agriculture and environmental impact, soil and plant science, and business studies and IT.

Careers, after completing the course, include farm management, and sales and marketing and in the agriculture industry.

Students can apply for a level-7 programme at other institutes of technology in Ireland, after completing this course.

* For those interested in agriculture and machinery, IT Tralee offers a level-7 bachelor of engineering in agriculture engineering course of three years’ duration.

The course is concerned with the design, manufacture, modification and maintenance of equipment used in agriculture.

Graduates are employed in sales, service, manufacture, installation and demonstration of agricultural equipment.

* LIT offers a level-6 agricultural engineering higher certificate in engineering course of two years’ duration.

The programme is suited to those who have an interest in agricultural machinery and like ‘hands-on’ work, and who want to be able to maintain and operate farm machinery. Employment opportunities are similar to that of IT Tralee’s degree.

* While many of the agriculture-related courses for 2014 are included in this article, it should not be taken as an exhaustive list.

Applicants should consult the 2014 CAO handbook for full details of all courses.

Applicants should also consult the relevant college/university prospectus, for full details on courses, including entry requirements.

Strong interest is expected again, this year, in agriculture courses, especially after figures released last week by Bord Bia showed growth in the value of Irish food and drink exports in 2013.

The plans to increase exports further suggest continued, strong demand into the future for agriculture graduates.

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