Uptake in Teagasc’s part-time and distance Green Cert courses grew by 60% in 2021, with slots provisionally filled for 2022 already ahead of 2020 levels.
A total of 1,869 students participated in part-time and distance programmes across 35 Green Cert courses in 2021, up almost 700 from the 1,172 students who undertook equivalent learning last year.
There was also a slight increase (6%) in the number of students undertaking full-time courses, with a total of 1,005 doing the Level 5 and Level 6 programmes in 2021, up from 974 in 2020.
The 60% uptake in distance and part-time participation came during the second year of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Irish Farmers Journal compared 2010 Green Cert data and found that enrolment in part-time and distance courses has grown by almost 500% over the last decade (from 313 to 1,869).
Teagasc head of education Dr Anne Marie Butler said it is the Green Cert’s “detail learning, 50% classroom learning and 50% outdoor practical instruction” that makes it such an attractive programme.
Type of students
Dr Butler said that of the “great diversity” of students partaking in Green Cert courses, the “vast majority are returning to full-time farming”.
I do think there’s a tremendous opportunity to reach a wider audience to showcase agriculture
“There’s been great interest in horticulture, equine and agriculture. You have others who are taking the farm manager course through Moorepark and there is a significant cohort of them who are not coming from farms, but who’d aim to progress to become farm managers and gain their full-time employment from it.
“I do think there’s a tremendous opportunity to reach a wider audience to showcase agriculture and the educational advantages of taking a Teagasc course.”
Dr Butler said the Green Cert’s “bread and butter” is still students who want to farm and they want to be able to get experience.
On the environmental aspect of Teagasc Green Cert programmes, Dr Butler said: “They are there now, but I would be the first to say it’s a key focus of mine to embed an even greater element.
It’s about making sure that it’s front and centre, from the low-emission slurry spreading, biodiversity and the urea recommendations on fertiliser
“I’d be looking at reviewing a lot of those modules and making sure that we have in the classroom the environmental technologies and the science that has been developed in Teagasc research.
“It’s about making sure that it’s front and centre, from the low-emission slurry spreading, biodiversity and the urea recommendations on fertiliser,” she said.
Dr Butler said that 2021 has seen lots of students looking to go to Australia or New Zealand for their farm work experience, if possible.
“That interest and willingness to travel is still there and people are not put off by COVID,” she said.
She added that agricultural colleges are already receiving enquiries for next year from students looking to go to the UK for placement.
The Teagasc head of education described how this international experience is hugely beneficial to Irish young farmers and that it allows them to learn from and take home elements from other farm systems.
Interested students are encouraged to visit www.teagasc.ie/education or make contact with any of the agricultural colleges.
“It’s very important to first be able to chat through what it is that will work for you as the student,” said Dr Butler.