'Farming needs injection of new blood'
"New blood" will be vital to sustain a vibrant farming sector, particularly as dairying continues to expand, Tony Pettit, head of education in Teagasc has warned.
As concerns over labour shortages and an ageing farm population intensify, Mr Pettit says "there has never been a greater need" for a young educated workforce in agriculture.
"For the dairy sector, there has never been more need for people to get involved in ag college courses to get employment on a dairy farm. There are more opportunities than ever probably because dairy herds are increasing in size and there is going to be big demand for well trained people out there.
"People are looking for trained individuals to manage herds and work as farm managers. They want qualifications and experience," said Mr Pettit announcing that Friday, May 26 is the closing date for applications for agriculture college full-time courses.
Mr Pettit noted that farm contractors are also facing significant challenges with regard to labour availability.
Mr Pettit anticipates strong demand for Teagasc's adult green cert courses next September, however he expects demand for full-time higher education courses may dip.
"The adult courses are likely to stay strong but we would expect full-time higher education courses in agriculture to go down a bit. We have been anticipating a dip for two or three years and it hasn't happened so we would expect this year that it will and it will start impacting," he said.
He said the recovering economy is opening up new opportunities in horticulture with occupations in landscape, design and sports turf management.