As a 25-year-old, a big topic of conversation amongst my peers and friends at the moment is: when are you moving abroad?

It is nearly a rite of passage for anyone in the 22 to 35 age bracket to spend a year or two working overseas, gaining experience and seeing the world. However, two years of restricted travel due to the pandemic have resulted in an even larger number of young Irish employees and graduates moving abroad in the last year.

A total of 21,525 Irish citizens were granted working holiday visas in Australia in the 12 months up to 30 June, 2023. That’s according to the Department of Home Affairs, which confirmed that the number of Irish people applying for the visa had almost doubled from the previous year, when there were 10,491 applications. This is the highest number of working holiday visas to be granted in Australia since 2011.

Significant movement

According to Gerard Farrell, agri recruiter with FRS Recruitment, there has been a significant movement in the agri jobs sector as a result of graduates moving abroad.

“We are certainly seeing an increase in the numbers of graduates opting to travel post college,” he says. “One factor can be attributed to lockdowns and restrictions in 2020 to 2022. Moreover, we are assisting more and more businesses with hiring replacement staff for employees who have decided to go travelling.”

Irish Country Living chats to five agricultural graduates who are currently working and living in Australia and Canada.

George Ryan, 24-year-old animal and crop production graduate working in Tasmania, Australia.

George Ryan (24), Tasmania, AustraliaAnimal and crop production graduate

“In February 2022, I moved to Tasmania, where I worked initially on a mixed livestock and cropping corporate farm of 4,500 hectares for a little over a year. I’m now working on a smaller privately owned operation as an operations manager where we grow feed barley, grass seed, canola (oilseed rape) and rear replacement heifers for the owner’s dairy farms.

“I knew that the opportunity, scale and variety of agricultural enterprises was great in Tasmania, which is why I decided to move. The biggest challenge I face is the distance to amenities?. As Tasmania is quite rural, meeting young people can be a challenge. I joined a local Aussie rules team who I train with twice a week, with a game most weekends in the winter time.

“There is huge demand for Irish graduates here. Similar to Ireland, there is a skills shortage, not only in agriculture but in teaching, nursing, medicine and the trades. I have no immediate plans to return home while I’m trying to establish a career here.”

Paudraic Guinan, 28-year-old, animal and crop production and MSc food business strategy graduate.

Padraic Guinan (28), Sydney Australia – Animal and crop production and MSc food business strategy graduate

“In March 2023, I decided to move to Sydney to take a career break, travel while I am young and to try new experiences. I wanted to see the world while experiencing different cultures and hopefully make some savings to put away.

“The main challenges I faced were finding a job and accommodation as Sydney is an expensive place to live when not working. Getting used to long days working on construction sites and the manual work in the sun that came with it was also difficult.

“There are great opportunities in construction, the wages are very high but there are limitations on the working rights, you can only work for one company for six months at a time on a working holiday visa. I am currently working in tech sales in the city as I was conscious to get back to some career work.

“Irish people are moving abroad for good reason. The weather, the wages, the craic, the travel and experiences, Australia has it all and is a great base to travel New Zealand and South East Asia also.

“It’s very easy to get a visa. The cost of living is very high at home and it can be a good place for people to come and earn some good money before returning home or potentially staying longer term.”

Ciara Langton, 25-year-old, food and agribusiness management graduate living in Vancouver, Canada.

Ciara Langton (24), Vancouver, Canada – Food and agribusiness management graduate

“I left Ireland in November 2021, relocating to Vancouver, where I have been living ever since. There was no particular reason why I moved, some of my college friends were moving here so I decided to go with them.

“I think there are numerous opportunities for Irish graduates abroad, both in terms of financial prospects and gaining valuable experiences. Irish graduates often stand out due to their strong educational background and work ethic. However, in my experience I found it difficult to find a job in the agriculture sector, as there aren’t many opportunities living in an urban environment like Vancouver.

“I’m currently working as a member service manager with Farmers of North America (FNA), who work with Canadian farmers dedicated to the mission of maximising farm profitability. For now I have no plans to return to Ireland. I hope to stay in Vancouver for the next two or three years.”

Eoin Higgins, Sydney, Australia,

Eoin Higgins (26), Sydney, Australia – Agriculture graduate from Kildalton (Level 6) and Waterford Institute of Technology (Level 7)

“In October 2022, I left Ireland and made my way to Western Australia. I landed in Perth and then travelled seven hours south to a small town called Esperance. There I spent two months at the spring harvest, driving a combine. I thankfully didn’t encounter many challenges when I arrived in Australia. The fact that I moved to a rural area, in a farm setting, made the transition quite easy – the climate, however, took a bit of getting used to. I also went with a friend, which made it much more enjoyable.

“Moving to Australia is a great opportunity to try something different and make some savings while doing so. I have noticed that many Irish people that emigrate to Australia are likely to enter the construction industry, due to the attractive pay rates and plentiful work.

“I am currently driving a digger and I am really enjoying it. Pay rates are high and there is plenty of work in the city due to the vast growth Sydney is experiencing. It is also very different to my previous job in Ireland, which was selling farm machinery. It is a nice change.”

Laoise O’Flannagan,25-year-old, food science graduate who recently moved to Melbourne, Australia.

Laoise O’Flannagan (25), Melbourne, Australia – Food science graduate

“I left Ireland on 7 January this year and made my way to Australia, stopping off in Vietnam along the way. I am currently living in Melbourne. I decided to leave to experience living and working abroad. Due to the cost of living and the housing crisis in Ireland, it would have been more than a few years before I would have been able to afford to even rent in Dublin. “However, as exciting as it is to move abroad and go on adventures, it is still really daunting to leave your family and friends. I am very lucky that I have close family living in Melbourne. The renting situation in Australia is tough work and it does take time to find a spot.

“The are endless amounts of opportunities for graduates. There are so many jobs available in many different industries with higher salaries than back home. As I have only arrived in Melbourne, I am currently on the job hunt.

“My role back home was a development technologist working in the food industry. I am currently looking for roles in the same area to progress my career.

“I do have plans to return home eventually.”

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