College isn’t for everyone; we all learn differently. Apprenticeships offer practical training routes for anyone looking to learn and upskill through a hands-on approach.

Teagasc recently launched four new agri-related apprenticeships that are currently open to applicants for the 2023 academic year. Not only do these apprenticeships provide a new route for students looking to enter the industry; they also provide farmers and companies the opportunity to become an approved employer, providing a potential solution to labour shortages seen across the sector.

I spoke with Marcella Phelan, National Apprenticeship Programme specialist at Teagasc who outlined the development of these programmes and what they mean.

Marcella Phelan, Teagasc

Land-based apprenticeships

During 2023, approval was completed for:

  • Sportsturf management – higher level 6 – two-year duration
  • Horticulturist apprenticeship – higher level 6 - two-year duration
  • Farm technician apprenticeship – higher level 6 - two-year duration
  • Farm manager apprenticeship – ordinary level 7 bachelor degree – two-year duration
  • These programmes are due to commence in September 2023.

    Teagasc will be finalising the development of the assistant stud management (level 7) apprenticeship programme for submission to QQI for validation approval by the end of 2023 and hope for the programme to be launched during 2024 pending validation approval.

    Development of the programmes

    According to Marcella, in 2017 there was a national call for the development of new apprenticeship programmes. Industry and Teagasc submitted five land-based apprenticeship proposals for consideration.

    Consortiums were formed to develop these apprenticeships for the requirements of the relevant occupation. These members included: industry stakeholders, prospective employers, graduates of existing Teagasc further education courses and Teagasc members.

    “A number of national reports, including Food Wise 2025, Teagasc Technology Foresight 2035, People in Dairy Project Report, and the Teagasc Education Strategic Vision Process, have all identified workforce deficits and skills gaps in a rapidly expanding Irish farming sector,” explained Marcella.

    Attracting talent

    Employment opportunities exist in the land-based sector and apprenticeships lead to the training of skilled people in the relevant land-based occupations.

    “An apprenticeship training model can attract new entrants into the industry and provide the knowledge, skills and competencies for graduates to pursue successful careers,” said Marcella.

    Sportsturf Management

    There is big demand in the Sportsturf Management apprenticeship as this training has not existed for decades. Employers were previously sending employees outside of Ireland for training. This programme is reaching the maximum number of registered apprentices for 2023.

    Farm apprenticeships

    Launched on 7 August were two farm apprenticeships: farm manager and farm technician.

    “The interest is very high with potential employers who want existing staff to get a qualification or for new staff. The pig and poultry industry interest in these programmes is very high and this is the same for dairy farms. Both of the farm apprenticeships are open to other farm enterprises inclusive of arable, cattle, sheep and sucklers,” Marcella explained.

    If farmers or business operators are interested in having an apprentice work within their enterprise, the first step is applying for approval through SOLAS

    Teagasc have received a huge expression of interest since the launch of these apprenticeships, with over 65 farmers going through the application process with SOLAS. The first step is the approval of employers, followed by the registration of apprentices with approved employers. This process is due to be closed by the second week in September.

    Employer training is funded; resources and support will be available to employers throughout the apprenticeship duration.

    Over the next few weeks, there will be a list of the approved apprenticeships on the Generation Apprenticeship site (

    Apprenticeships offer practical training routes for anyone looking to learn and upskill through a hands-on approach.

    Applicant requirements

    The main thing for apprentices is to gain employment with an approved SOLAS employer once the minimum entry requirements are met.

    These programmes are open from the age of 18 onward and anyone eligible to work in Ireland can partake, though a certain standard of English is required.

    These are higher level education apprenticeship programmes, so there will be specific requirements for each programme with different options to meet the minimum entry requirements.

    Leaving Certificate (NFQ level 5) with a standard of English and maths would be the first option for the higher level 6 programmes.

    “Consortiums wanted to ensure a range of access into these programmes, so there are additional options, like a level 5 certificate in a relevant sector – people who do not have a level 5 would [instead require a number of years of experience working in the industry,” said Marcella.

    All entry information is available at or

    Payment structure

    Apprentices are paid by their employer for the duration of the apprenticeship programme. This is inclusive of when they attend off-the-job block release or off-the-job online classes.

    There is also a fee per year for each programme. For the Sportsturf Management Apprenticeship, the fee is €1500. The fee is to be confirmed for the Horticulturist, Farm Technician and Farm Manager Apprenticeship in the coming weeks.

    Further information

    For more infomation visit: or meet Teagasc education staff at Ploughing

    considering an apprenticeship?

    With apprenticeships, you earn while you learn and this may suit people currently working in the industry or students who want to enter into the industry.

    With apprenticeships, some important questions to ask according to Marcella are:

  • Is this an occupation I want?
  • Do I want to earn while I learn?
  • Do I want a career in this sector?
  • Some essential skills for taking on an apprenticeship:
  • A good level of physical fitness; enjoy physical work.
  • A love for working outdoors; being safety focused.
  • An interest in agriculture and science.
  • Solid literacy, verbal and numeracy skills.
  • Good analytical and problem solving skills.
  • The ability to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Being capable of taking responsibility for your learning (with the continual support of Teagasc, your appointed workplace mentor and your employer).
  • “These apprenticeships are a balance between academic and practical requirements of the occupations,” said Marcella. “The design of the different modules is based on-farm, which aims to make the learning authentic to the requirements of the job.”

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