According to Professor Frank Monahan from University College Dublin (UCD), “there’s a real need for an understanding of the science behind a lot of the challenges facing agriculture,” such as soil quality, water quality and carbon sequestration.

Addressing these challenges requires equipping individuals with the latest skills and knowledge, a task that some traditional educational pathways may struggle to meet due to their length and inflexibility.

Micro-credentials are emerging as a crucial solution to this educational challenge. These are short, flexible and quality-assured courses designed to provide specific skills or knowledge in a particular area.

UCD currently provides a broad range of agriculture and food science micro-credentials.

As Prof Monahan explains: “They’re small, bite-sized courses that are standalone, focused immersions in a specific topic that give learners university credit.’’

This makes them particularly attractive to professionals who seek targeted learning without committing to lengthy degree or masters programmes.

Benefits of micro-credentials

  • Flexibility and accessibility: one of the significant advantages of micro-credentials is their flexibility. “In the case of the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, our micro-credentials are online and self-directed. So, people do it at their own pace, and there are lots of interesting options available on topics including food regulation, global food systems, advanced animal nutrition and communications and agri innovation,” says Prof Monahan. This flexibility allows learners to balance their studies with work and personal commitments, making it easier to engage in lifelong learning.
  • Targeted upskilling: micro-credentials offer the opportunity to upskill in specific areas quickly. For individuals in the agriculture sector, this means acquiring the latest knowledge and techniques relevant to their field, which can enhance their job performance and career prospects. “It gives people an opportunity to upskill, which may enable them to move into another area in the sector or get promoted,” notes Monahan.
  • Enhanced employability: for employers, micro-credentials represent a way to ensure their workforce remains knowledgeable about the latest industry developments. This is critical in sectors such as agriculture, where technological and methodological advancements occur rapidly.
  • New learner fee subsidy

    In a significant boost for micro-credential courses, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science announced a €3.4m funding award to the MicroCreds Project.

    This funding, part of the Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 3 micro-credential course learner subsidy, will subsidise learner fees for over 300 courses offered by MicroCreds partner universities across Ireland.

    This subsidy, covering 50% to 80% of course fees, aims to make upskilling and reskilling opportunities more accessible.

    IUA MicroCreds project lead Jools O’Connor emphasises the importance of this initiative stating that: “MicroCreds courses offer a fantastic opportunity to upskill and engage in lifelong learning. It is fantastic to receive this funding towards 300 courses and we look forward to welcoming more learners.” a resource for lifelong learning serves as a central platform for exploring the wide range of micro-credentials available from seven Irish universities (Dublin City University, Maynooth University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin, University of Galway and University of Limerick).

    The platform, developed with user experience in mind, allows learners to browse courses in various critical skill areas, such as sustainability, digital transformation and data programming.

    As the agriculture and food sector continues to evolve, addressing skills gaps through flexible and targeted educational pathways becomes increasingly important.

    Micro-credentials offer a viable solution, providing learners with the opportunity to gain relevant skills quickly and efficiently.

    With the new learner fee subsidy making these courses more accessible, now is an ideal time for individuals and employers alike to explore the benefits of micro-credentials.

    Prof Monahan’s insights highlight these courses’ critical role in ensuring the sector’s workforce remains knowledgeable and adaptable, ultimately contributing to the sector’s growth and sustainability.

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