Irish Examiner

Agri-food sector highlights job openings to potential recruits

The Irish agri-food sector contributes €24bn to the national economy, generates almost 10% of exports and provides 7.7% of national employment. When inputs, processing and marketing is included, the sector accounts for almost 10% of employment.

“The future growth and expansion of the Irish agrifood industry requires additional human resources,” says Billy Goodburn, ICOS Skillnets manager. “The dairy sector in particular has considerable potential given the industry expansion agenda that exists around the removal of milk quotas next year.”

Over the course of 2014, the Irish Co-Operative Organisation Society hosted a number of the ‘Foot in The Door’ training and advisory industry initiatives, targeting potential new employees for the agri-food sector.

The events offered free introductory training on retail customer service, interview skills, merchandising, communications, emotional intelligence and office computer systems.

“On the basis of these meetings, we certainly saw the prospect of more jobs ranging from the agri-retail sector to processing and in research and development,” he said. “We are doing more and more retail-related training with the co-ops, and they are clearly gearing up to larger and more expanded facilities.”

Mr Goodburn has also noted the changing gender demographic within the industry. “We have had a huge number of female staff members partaking in our programmes, and we have certainly seen women becoming much more recognised for the roles they are playing in the co-operative movement in Ireland.”

With an increasing world population and continuing growth of about 2% per annum in the demand for food, Ireland is targeting a 50% increase in agrifood output by 2020. With the abolition of milk quotas, producers are keen to expand their enterprises. At a processing level, some €500m has been spent on capacity in recent years the last few years.

“This initiative highlights the new and substantial opportunities for job seekers in a sector of the economy with strong growth and employment potential,” said Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney. “The Irish agri-food industry has exciting expansion plans to meet the growing global demand for food of high quality, and will need motivated people with a range of skills and qualities.

“This is a great opportunity for economic benefits, most particularly for job seekers in rural areas which are the heartland of Irish agrifood production.”

The year 2014 also saw the launch of an Enterprise Ireland €250,000 Competitive Feasibility Fund aimed at stimulating new start-ups in the agri-business sector. This fund, which provides up to €25,000 per project, is designed to support new start- up companies or individual entrepreneurs to investigate the viability of a new significant growth oriented business or proposition in the agri-business sector

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