For our latest Network Insider interview we caught up with Brigid Quigley, the Network Manager of Macra Agricultural Skillnet to find out more about how the network operates.
Name of Network: Macra Agricultural Skillnet
Number of members: 1,200
Sector(s) covered: Agriculture
Year established: 2015
Please describe what Macra Agricultural Skillnet does?
Macra Agricultural Skillnet wants to ensure as many farmers as possible have access to the subsidised opportunities for further training and development. We primarily fund those under 40 i.e. young farmers or those who fall outside of this age bracket working in the wider agricultural industry. Our promoter Macra na Feirme was previously involved in the training of young farmers so establishing a Skillnet was an ideal progression.
Can you outline one key way your network impacted positively on the sector?
Our network has made numerous short technical courses easily accessible to workers and young farmers. It has also initiated, with its research project into CPD (Continuing Professional Development) in Farming, the process of recognising those who complete training and giving farming a professional status.
What has been the most transformative initiative in your sector in the last year?
Many areas in the farming sector are transforming; from a traditional family farming model to one of formal employment in company and collaborative farming arrangements. This transformation, along with a shortage of available labour has significantly increased the demand for training in the sector.
What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?
The move to formal employee arrangements within farm structures from sole trader setups will continue. Market pressure will see a further decline in the number of beef farms and slower but continued dairy expansion. A huge focus on environmental sustainability will demand efficiency, new practices and technological advances.
What skills do you think are most important for a small business owner/manager?
A small business owner can get tied up in the daily to-do and knowing that time spent planning, evaluating and upskilling is vital in ensuring the business does not become unmanageable or stressful. We are currently running Business Brush Up, Labour Management and Strategic Management programmes for farmers, where they spend two days doing just that.
Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet Network?
To have joined yesterday. Getting involved in a network gives any business access to a network where you are offered easily accessible upskilling opportunities, with a network of fellow like-minded farmers and support that benefits your business needs. Many people who train with us initially undertaking something like a short Hoof Care Programme, return consistently when they see the variety of programmes we offer.