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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Progression in agriculture is very much a real thing’ – education officer outlines pathways

A Level 5 Certificate in Agriculture is the stepping stone to furthering your agricultural career and education in Ireland.

After completing this, either on a part-time or full-time basis, students can opt to specialise in a particular field of their choice.

Areas of specialisation available through Teagasc at Level 6 include dairy herd management, drystock management, crops and machinery management, mechanisation, forestry, pig management or poultry management.

While all learners complete the level 5 component – which is a standalone QQI-verified award – a level 6 either at an advanced level (full-time) or a Specific Purpose Cert is required to obtain your young, trained farmer status to drawn down DAFM-related payments and qualify for stamp duty exemptions.

At this juncture in your education, you can opt to complete an apprenticeship – some of which are in development or the established Level 7 Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management – or you can progress to higher education institutions at level 7 or 8.

According to Veronica Ryan, Teagasc Education Officer, Irish-trained students are not only in demand in Ireland but globally, for the management of larger and expanding herds.”

Ag education

During a Teagasc Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal webinar, she said: “Where a son or daughter may be too young to come home and farm but may want to keep their hand in farming, they could take on a management role on a farm until they are ready to do so.”

“It is a fantastic opportunity to involve not just education but work and travel together until they are ready to do that,” she added.

“Progression in agriculture is very much a real thing. Everyone that comes out with a level 5 certificate is employable at a farm operative level. Those with a level 6 advanced cert, be it in drystock or dairying, would be employable at the technician level.”

“Every now and then, you will see ads from the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine for technicians on either a part-time or full-time basis. Their entry level for employment in that area is now an advanced certificate at level 6.”

“If you get a step in the door at all with the DAFM, there is a natural career progression that will be made available to you.”

Level 7 and 8

She explained that you could continue on after this with a level 7 pass degree and remember that with that, you could go on and venture into the management of a farm either locally or globally through the apprenticeship option.

Level 8 is described as the experienced or professional development step on the ladder.

She continued: “To give you an idea, when I was employed initially by Teagasc, the entry requirement at that stage was a level 8 degree (honours) in agriculture.”

“That education standard is still there, and in some cases, you will benefit in terms of getting employment if you have a level 9 onwards. It is possible to go on further.”

“Indeed, some of my colleagues have gone through the ag college route to go their degree and employment through Teagasc.”

“Some students that we have had on the various courses have gone on to do master’s degrees through this route. So, anything is possible for anyone who feels they may have been slightly hard done by in the CAO system.”

Ag education in Ireland

In Ireland, there are:

  • 12 regional units – Green Cert – part-time and distance education (Specific Purpose Certificate in Farming);
  • 4 Teagasc colleges: Ballyhaise, Clonakilty, Kildalton and Botanical Gardens – further education programmes and Green Cert;
  • 3 private colleges: Gurteen, Mountbellew and Pallaskenry – further education programmes and Green Cert.

Teagasc has established links with higher-level education providers, including University College Dublin (UCD), ATU Galway-Mayo (formerly GMIT), Dundalk IT, Atlantic Technological University (Letterkenny IT) and SETU Waterford Campus (formerly WIT), for career progression and education.”

Top tips from Ryan: 
  • Do your ‘homework’ – perform research to select the right course for you;
  • Go on Teagasc’s website to view a full list of courses, colleges and opening dates;
  • Explore part and full-time options – Keep options open;
  • See what is involved in a course before you sign up;
  • Further to the above, there are some equine and horticulture courses delivered through Teagasc;
  • Do not assume that a qualification you obtained outside of the 26 counties is eligible for an equivalency cert for the Green Cert to entitle you to various DAFM and Revenue taxation benefits – Teagasc needs to map modules to see if they equate to those delivered in the Green Cert. Forward a list of modules and your degree to Teagasc for assessment.
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