THE ICSA is making representations to Teagasc for a review of protocols to ensure that young trainee farmers have a positive experience when on placement.
ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has said that he is concerned that young trainee farmers are getting a ‘raw deal on a small minority of host farms where they do their placements for the green cert.’
‘I want to see fair play for all trainee farmers on placement. I have personally been contacted in a number of cases where the trainee was treated as a source of cheap labour doing the same repetitive task over and over and where learning opportunities were severely constrained,’ he said.
At a time when we are seeing some progress on encouraging more female farmers, he said ‘it is now more important than ever to review how the system works and to ensure that every host farm is carefully vetted on an ongoing basis.’
For the majority, an on-farm placement is a superb way of gaining invaluable experience and knowledge. ‘No matter how well-run the home farm, there is always something to be learned from other operators, provided that the placement is designed to lead to good learning outcomes,’ said Mr Kelleher. ‘However, trainees should not be cheap tractor drivers for the entirety of the experience, nor should they spend all their time doing pure manual work that nobody else wants to do.
‘It is fine to expect trainees to pick stones for a day or fork out dung but if the sum total of the placement is pure grunt work, then there is no value in the placement and the host farmer should pay a labourer the going rate.’
Every trainee, he said, should be offered at least two private interviews with different Teagasc supervisors who have no conflict of interest.
‘Host farms who are the subject of complaint from more than one trainee should have their role reviewed and where they are found to breach the spirit of the scheme there should be sanctions including temporary or permanent suspension as host farms,’ he said.
Mr Kelleher stressed that the ICSA is not ‘defending trainees who are unwilling to work or who have a bad attitude.’
‘The majority of host farms do an excellent job.
‘However, Teagasc needs to continuously seek out new farms and pay attention to their duty of care to young trainees.’