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Independent.ie

Saturday 20 January 2018

Demand for high-quality food is 'creating careers'

Junior Certificate pupils are embracing higher level maths in record numbers
Junior Certificate pupils are embracing higher level maths in record numbers

Catriona Murphy

The growing demand for places on third level agriculture and food courses has generated headlines in the media every year for the past four years, as more and more students make food and farming their career of choice.

CAO points for agriculture and food courses rose by another 10pc in 2013, coming on the back of several years of steady growth.

UCD's Agricultural Science degree is most often used as a barometer for demand among students, and a quick glance at it shows remarkable pressure for places.

In 2013, more than 4,200 students applied for a place in UCD agriculture and food courses, a 65pc increase on 10 years before.

In 2006, the minimum points requirement for a place at UCD was 315, but this has jumped by a staggering 135 points to 450 in 2013.

Application numbers and CAO points requirements in all other colleges offering agriculture and food courses have mirrored the trend.

But is this continued growth in demand sustainable? Will there be enough jobs to go around for all of the graduates that are enrolling?

Or is agriculture and food just the latest sector of the economy to suffer from what Alan Greenspan of the US Federal Reserve would call 'irrational exuberance'?

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UCD's Professor Alex Evans is very optimistic for the future of his graduates.

"The public is more interested in food than ever before and there is a huge demand for high quality food of known origin," Prof Evans told the Farming Independent.

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"That demand creates career opportunities in the whole food chain from food producers to processors, nutritionists, finance experts and all the ancillary jobs that come with it," he added.

"There will be a downturn at some stage when the next fad comes along, whether that is the internet again or finance but there is no sign of the next big thing yet," said Prof Evans.

The availability of jobs in the agriculture and food sector is proven in UCD's latest statistics on its graduates.

For many years, the trend was that 50pc of graduates secured a job within nine months of leaving the university, while 40pc went on to further studies in post-graduate positions.

The remaining 10pc went travelling.

However, in recent years, more and more students have been going straight into jobs.

Today, 66pc of graduates are in employment within the industry, while 30pc are opting for further study.

"In fact, we are struggling to fill some of our post-graduate positions these days," remarked Prof Evans.

Irish Independent