Certificate for European Consultants in Rural Areas (CECRA) is a European soft skills training programme designed for agricultural advisers and consultants working within the farming community.

The aim of the programme is to create a standard for advisory skills across Europe. CECRA supports participants to improve their advisory and extension techniques.

Teagasc is an approved provider of CECRA training in Ireland.

A range of advisory skills training modules have been developed for an Irish context and are now available for Irish consultants and advisers.

The modules are designed “to enable advisers to deliver high-quality extension programmes through advanced facilitation techniques, communication, and self-development”.

In short, you’ll gain the skills needed to better your communication skills with others through a series of modules, event attendance, a foreign trip, and a thesis-type submission. Here, two Teagasc employees tell ICL that increasing your communication capabilities is never a bad thing.

Cian Condon

Cian Condon hails from Dublin, but he spent much of his childhood on his grandmother’s farm in Co Leitrim which gave him his initial interest in farming. He loved working outdoors and the rural lifestyle the farm gave him, so it was a natural progression for him to study agriculture in University College Dublin (UCD).

He holds two master’s degrees: one in reproductive physiology, which he completed in UCD after his undergraduate degree, and the other in rural environmental conservation and management, which he completed six years later (again through UCD).

Cian has been a part of the team at Teagasc for the past 20 years working in Wexford, Meath and now closer to home in Leitrim, where he is business and technology drystock adviser.

More recently, he completed a professional diploma in leadership development with the Irish Management Institute in 2018; giving him a taste for leadership skills and developing his interest in the CECRA certification programme.

“It just caused me to look at my role a little bit differently, so when the CECRA came along I had the interest already and I was interested in learning a bit more,” he explains.

“You get to do a trip abroad, which is another core part of it. I was very lucky that I went on that in 2018. That was fantastic, I went down to southwest Germany – it was an absolutely amazing trip to see how things were done there, on different farms,” he says.

Cian feels the main benefit he took away from the course was learning how better to engage and understand others.

“For me the whole thing revolves around building trust with other people. It’s learning about yourself that you can understand other people, that you can understand where they are coming from, know why they think the way they do – I think it’s just trust, trust, trust.”

Marie Flynn

Marie Flynn is business and technology dairy adviser with Teagasc in Co Cork. Similar to Cian, she has an agricultural science degree and master’s under her belt, the only difference being she completed her degree in Waterford IT before taking on a masters with Teagasc and UCD through the Walsh Fellowship.

After completing the fellowship, she worked in New Zealand drawing silage and, during that time, completed the overseas travel part of the CECRA.

“When I was doing my master’s, I was encouraged to do the CECRA modules during the two years – I made a big effort to get all my modules done, we had to do five modules,” she explains.

“I knew I was going to New Zealand once I finished up and I wanted to have it all set up that all I had to do was the abroad part when I went travelling,” she adds.

In 2019, Marie applied for her certification upon her return from New Zealand. However, due to COVID-19 and the fact that herself and Cian were the first in Europe to receive certification, it was only delivered to them this year.

“I was looking back over my modules and reviewing them, and I realised actually I use them in my discussion groups every day,” she says. “How I communicate with different people, or make things visual, or even [when it comes to] marketing yourself.

“It’s only when I came back and I was reflecting on it that I realised [how] beneficial they were,” she adds.

There are currently 17 modules available with CECRA; two of which are mandatory. To achieve certification, you must complete another three of your choice making five in total.

If you are interested in finding out more about the CECRA modules and how to apply, visit cecra.net/en/home or teagasc.ie/about/our-organisation/connected/training--events/cecra/

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