The public sector embargo on recruitment and promotion has had a huge impact on the ability of Teagasc to deliver education and advisory services at a time when demand is growing on a daily basis.
The number of people enrolling at agricultural colleges has rocketed and the need for innovation in the agri-sector is growing rapidly.
Teagasc has taken a huge hit on staffing and the overall number has fallen from 1,600 in 2009 to 1,000 this year. This huge cut in staff has impacted on Teagasc’s main areas of activity: education, advice and research. Regarding education, the number of college students enrolling in these courses has soared by 144% – it reached 1,500 this year and that is three times the figure of a few years ago. However, staffing levels have not kept pace and there is a shortage of teachers.
Teagasc has indicated it may have to cap the number of students in such courses. It is difficult to increase class sizes in such circumstances and it might even be dangerous to do so because of health and safety issues relating to machinery and animals. The colleges in Clonakilty and Pallaskenry have been particularly badly hit.
The advisory service has been seriously affected and the number of staff there has fallen from 400 to 250 in the past four years. It is simply not possible to give the type of service necessary.
Research has also been hit and six senior researcher posts have not been filled. It is a hugely important area and the Minister should lift the embargo immediately.
Seamus Healy TD
Agriculture Industry: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members] (8 Oct 2014): link to debate