NEW research by Skillnet Ireland and its network for young farmers, Macra Agricultural Skillnet, reveals the need for a continuing professional development (CPD) framework to be established for the farming sector in Ireland.
Speaking at the launch, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, welcomed the report, saying: ‘This government is committed to making Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026. Lifelong learning and upskilling are key to achieving this ambition and are particularly vital in an economy approaching full employment.’
Minister Creed added: ‘This report supports the views of other key stakeholders within the farming sector, including the Department of Agriculture and Teagasc, on the value of further developing a culture of continuing professional development for farmers.’
The study found that, although many industries have established continuing professional development frameworks and models, no such framework exists within the agricultural sector in Ireland. Paul Healy, chief executive of Skillnet Ireland, said: ‘We know there is an appetite within the farming industry for continuous training, upskilling and education. In 2018, over 3,500 SMEs in the agricultural sector took part in innovative Skillnet Ireland programmes that support them in future-proofing their businesses.
‘Through an examination of national and international best practice, this research offers a framework for all stakeholders within the agricultural sector to examine ways in which a formal CPD process that recognises participation in continuing education, upskilling and training could be developed and implemented,’ he added.
‘This report recommends that the initial phase of a CPD framework should be funded to keep costs to farmers as low as possible and that’s encouraging,’ said Macra na Feirme president James Healy.
‘International best practice would tell you that a future CPD framework needs to be co-ordinated by a single organisation responsible for the provision, monitoring and promotion of the CPD structure so that farmers feel that they will miss something in terms of learning or experience if they don’t engage in CPD,’ he added.
Over 270 people working in the agricultural sector in Ireland were surveyed as part of the research. The data was gathered through surveys and interviews, submissions from agri-groups and focus group meetings with young farmers. Almost 90% said they believe CPD could benefit farmers by improving efficiency, increasing awareness of regulations, enhancing their ability to access finance and providing them with better structures for recruitment and management of staff.
Two-thirds of respondents (67.3%) said they are likely to register for CPD points / credits if available, while almost half (47.3%) said they would be willing to pay an annual subscription to manage CPD points/credits.
The report recommends that Macra Agricultural Skillnet lead on establishing an advisory group which would develop a CPD framework for farming.