The Ulster Farmers’ Union has responded to DAERA’s consultation which outlines plans to ensure education, training and technology transfer all deliver for the agrifood industry.
The UFU support the principle but it says that the detail must now focus on outcomes relevant to all parts of the industry and it must be industry led.
In its response to the DAERA Knowledge Framework (Education Strategy) consultation, UFU President Barclay Bell said: “We have stressed the importance of using this opportunity to revise the CAFRE curriculum to provide a greater emphasis on grassland, soils and business management. We believe technical education is strong, but more has to be done to particularly improve the business knowledge of students. Education needs to reflect real farm businesses and the range of different systems, so that students are more aware of the pressures they will face as well as future opportunities and new technologies.”
The UFU president also said that the Union would also like to see more apprenticeship options, with a greater emphasis on practical experience on working farms. This allows students to put theory into practice.
The UFU also raised its disappointment that the strategic goals did not include the equine or forestry sectors. “These are important in meeting the objective of a ‘thriving rural economy, that contributes to prosperity and well-being’,” said Barclay Bell. He added that while much of the focus was on land based farming and food processing more account also needed to be taken of pigs and poultry at farm level.
The UFU is also pressing for a strengthening of the link between further education (FE) colleges and schools. While it is good that they both offer agricultural courses, the UFU says it is important they ensure courses are not only of a high quality but relevant to the industry’s needs.
“This is also an opportunity to encourage talented young people to consider a career in the agri-food industry. To this end on farm work experience opportunities for school children should be facilitated and encouraged,” said Mr Bell.
“The Union also believes that DAERA too has a part to play in educating the public about the role of farmers in producing top quality products for our food chain. A great example of this is the work of Agri Aware in the Republic of Ireland.”