He spoke very passionately about the job prospects for the 298 final-year students at the official opening of the UCD Agriculture, Food Science and Human Nutrition Day. This event saw approximately 35 employers visit UCD to meet students.
Minister Coveney said about one in nine jobs in Ireland at the moment are linked to agriculture, food, food retail and nutrition.
"The sector is looking for talent, it’s looking for ambition, and we have a whole new generation who are going to further transform our agri-food, food and nutrition sectors over the next 10 years in a way that’s really exciting, and in a way that will re-affirm this sector as by far the most important sector in the Irish economy," he said.
The Minister reminisced about his own beginnings in agriculture which began when he left his arts degree in UCC to go to Gurteen Agricultural College, despite the views of his peers and family.
"In many ways, agricultural science was the domain of largely sons who had farms to go back to. But that has now totally changed," he said.
Some of the big recruiters present included Randox, a Co Antrim based company which is seeking approximately 35 graduates this year along with a significant number of students for placement. This same company is also developing a manufacturing plant in Donegal which will see 600 positions created up to 2020.
Norbrook, which is based in Newry, is also undergoing significant expansion and expects to take on 100 graduates this year.
Coveney was particularly interested in focusing on the huge opportunity in dairy in his address noting the hugely significant number of graduates and postgraduates that will be employed in Kerry Group’s Naas site.
He also referred to future population growth, which will be about 80million every year – or “a Germany every year extra that needs to be fed” as he put it himself.
He concluded by opining that in thirty years’ time we’ll look back on the period from 2010 to 2020 as when the food sector transformed itself into a world leader.
His final remarks was advice to the students not to underestimate their own value, as UCD is a top university producing graduates in this space at the moment.
The career day was organised by the students themselves led by a careers committee chaired by Rebecca O’Sullivan. The Agricultural Science Association were also involved with ASA President Eoin Lowry presenting prizes to the 10 winners of the ASA mock interviews which were held on Tuesday.