What educational opportunities can farm families expect from Teagasc into the future? That's the question I put to Tony Pettit, Teagasc Head of Education, after the Education Conference on 05 June 2018 and the launch of the Teagasc Education Vision report.
"Everyone in the agriculture sector knows that farming is always changing," says Tony, "but in order to equip farm families to meet the challenges and benefit from the opportunities of change, we need to know what is going on, nationally and globally; to plan for change; and to act on our plans. The Education Vision report lets us do all this: it provides details on current and likely future developments in farming, it lays out strategies for addressing these challenges, and it provides specific goals that we need to focus, immediately and into the future."
Every farmer knows that setting goals and working to meet your targets is crucial to success, whether in grass budgeting, herd fertility, or financial management. So what are the goals that the Teagasc education team are working towards and how will achieving these objectives help farm families and the agriculture sector in general?
"The Education Vision report sets out ten very relevant, detailed, achievable goals for Teagasc education going forward," says Tony. "You can think about these goals in terms of the learner and the education and training provider, whether Teagasc staff or host farmers. For learners, we will, in a gender positive manner, continue to develop their knowledge, skills, and competence, including the development of entrepreneurial and personal (transversal) skills; we will promote careers and career progression in the sector; and we will also provide education pathways and qualification destinations for farm managers."
"On the other hand, we will prioritise staff training and professional development; adopt new teaching and learning methods; improve the outcomes from practical learning periods; and support the maintenance and development of educational awards for the land sector."
So things look set to change and improve for both the learners on Teagasc programmes and the staff delivering those courses. But can Tony point to any developments that show these ambitious goals are achievable?
"Yes," says Tony, "we have been moving on many of the targets set out in the Education Vision report and have already seen good progress. For example, we have evolved the agriculture programme offered at colleges in line with the report recommendations so that students starting out this autumn will embark on a two-year Level 6 programme. We are also in consultation with industry stakeholders on the development of apprenticeships for agriculture, horticulture, equine, and forestry, and we're making great strides with these."
So it seems that farm families and the agriculture sector in general can expect great things from Teagasc education. According to Tony, "it is a very exciting time to be working in agriculture and in agricultural education. I would urge anyone that is considering undertaking or developing a career in the sector to visit us at college open days and other Teagasc events, look at our course and careers information online and in our Prospectus, or talk to their local Teagasc education officer."
Find the Teagasc Education Vision report at https://www.teagasc.ie/media/website/publications/2018/Teagasc-Education-Vision-Report.pdf
For more details about Teagasc education, visit www.teagasc.ie/education