Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Holding out for a bright future in agribusiness

KEEN: Stephen Robb is a third year Food and Agribusiness Management student in UCD about to start work experience
KEEN: Stephen Robb is a third year Food and Agribusiness Management student in UCD about to start work experience

Stephen Robb

I am currently in year three of a four-year degree in Food and Agribusiness Management in UCD.

The decision to study 'ag', as it's known on campus, came easy to me. Coming from an agricultural background it was the only career I could see myself doing in 10 years' time. The problem came in deciding where and what to study. Travel or stay at home? Study general agriculture or specialise in a certain area?

I decided to study food and agribusiness as it combined both business and agriculture. The course content and the career prospects were so broad that it didn't tie me to any one job. In a sense it gave me a way of putting off the serious decisions regarding my future until I was mature enough to make them.

One thing that's apparent in ag is that you get out what you put in. No one is going to make you get out of bed in the morning. When you earn your degree, it serves as an important stepping stone to your future. But as one student remarked to me, "an ag degree opens the door for you, but you have to walk through it yourself." So I suppose it's up to us to show initiative and succeed in the sector.

Very few people studying ag know exactly what job they want. Most of us are relying on our professional work placement in third year to give us a better idea of where our strengths lie. From January through to August 2014 we are expected to put theory into practice and gain practical experience in a business or organisation.

Like most other students I am still trying to secure placement. With Christmas looming and with the stress of exams kicking in, there is a bit of anxiety building to get something sorted for January since most of the regular employers have yet to contact the college and many of us are holding out for them. The main areas students are interested in are farm experience and industry, but the latter is proving by far the hardest to secure.

We're encouraged to make the most of our placement as many past students have gained employment as a result of it. I'm hoping to make some key contacts which will prove useful after I graduate.

In terms of the future there is a real sense of excitement around ag-science. The prospect of employment is high and students are enthusiastic about what the future holds. We are finishing our degrees at a time of great change.

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Being perfectly honest though, I still don't know what I want to do after college. I'd like to see myself back on the farm someday, but with the experience I've gained from working in the industry behind me.


My feeling is that a large proportion of students studying ag intend to return to the farm at some stage after they have worked in the industry for a period. There's a sense of responsibility to take over the farm at some stage in our lives, especially when our parents are looking to take more of a back seat.

Surprisingly, there are only a handful of students intending on going straight home to the farm to work. Those who are have plans for expansion of some sort in the short- to medium-term future, or are planning on part-time farming.

Graduate programmes are seen as a key step to gaining long-term employment. A number of major food processors are offering programmes to fourth years and the uptake is high. Employment with the larger companies such as Glanbia and Kerry is highly sought after because they are regarded as a secure employer. Perhaps the most sought after is a company-funded post-graduate position but the competition for these can be intense.

Of course, there is always the option of going travelling after college as a 'last chance' before employment and responsibilities tie us down.

Expansion on farms, but moreso at industry level, is the main driver for employment. The huge rise in the CAO points requirements to gain access to the course are testament to the increasing value employers and students are attaching to a degree in Agricultural Science.

Here's hoping the future remains as bright as it is right now.

Irish Independent