Teagasc Past - Training
In the beginning
When the Department of Agriculture was established a century ago, one of the functions it assumed was the administration of the Board of Education grant-in-aid for technical and scientific instruction, along with responsibility for the Albert Agricultural College, the Botanic Gardens and the Munster Institute. At the same time, the local authorities were given the power to levy rates on agricultural land to finance county committees of agriculture which, in turn, were obliged to provide technical instruction to young farmers and to stimulate rural industry. The Department also became active in encouraging programmes of basic agricultural education throughout the national school system.
Later on, the Department financed training for agricultural instructors employed by the county committees and by 1913 over 1,200 farmers were attending a programme of agricultural day classes delivered by these trainers during the winter months. Over time, the emphasis shifted to the provision of night classes, which by the 1930's attracted a larger attendance.
The establishment of agricultural colleges
From 1900 to 1975 agricultural colleges were established throughout Ireland for training young farmers. Basic training was also carried out at local training centres. This dual delivery system was valuable at a time when demand for courses was buoyant with colleges full to capacity and unable to cater for the full annual cohort of trainees.
A new semi-state organisation, the national advisory and training body (ACOT) was set up in 1980 to provide training and advisory services for farmers. It took over the functions and personnel of the five state colleges (Athenry, Ballyhaise, Clonakilty, Kildalton and the College of Amenity Horticulture) previously operated by the Department of Agriculture.
It also took over responsibility for the state funding of the private colleges. In 1981, an ACOT Expert Group undertook a major review of agricultural training policy. Its report was the first to recognise that agricultural training had developed in an ad hoc manner and that a degree of co-ordination and standardisation was needed. Following this review, ACOT initiated the Certificate in Farming, a comprehensive training programme for young entrants to farming.
Certificate in Farming
It was introduced in 1983. It has been the key training programme for new entrants to farming. Since its initiation over 11,000 young people have completed the programme. Of these 72% are in full-time farming and a further 20% are in part-time farming. Most of the remainder are in agriculture-related employment.
The Certificate in Farming has recently been replaced by the Vocational Certificate in Agriculture, Level 3, which places emphasis on the development of business and management skills and in developing proficiency in dairy, drystock or crop production.
Farm Apprenticeship Board
The Farm Apprenticeship Board (FAB) has had responsibility for the training of farm managers through a three-year course and apprenticeship-based programme. The functions and staff of the FAB are being absorbed into Teagasc in 2001.
In 1988, Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority, was established as the national agency with overall responsibility for the provision of research, training and advisory services to the agriculture industry. It subsumed the training functions of the national advisory and training body (ACOT). The rationale for this was that considerable benefit could be derived from the co-ordination and integration of the training service with the research and advisory services.
In line with the continuing decline in farm numbers and increased off-farm employment opportunities, the numbers of young people enrolling in Teagasc courses has declined by around 40% in recent years. The national certification of all courses and the upgrading of some courses to third-level status is aimed at arresting this decline and ensuring that an adequate number of well-trained young people will take up careers in farming over the coming decades.