At Teagasc Open Days, the world of professional horticulture comes together
We sat down with John Mulhern, Principal of the College of Amenity Horticulture at the National Botanic Gardens, and Liam McMahon, Senior Horticultural Consultant at National Agrochemical Distributors, to discuss the importance of Teagasc's open days to the sector.
25 October 2018 | 0
On Thursday, March 9, members of the trade and students of the College for Amenity Horticulture in the National Botanic Gardens exchanged ideas, information, and CVs during the first series of Teagasc open days for 2018.
We sat down with John Mulhern, Principal of the Teagasc College of Amenity Horticulture in the National Botanic Gardens, to discuss the importance of a Teagasc education, both for the students, and the trade.
The Careers Event
“We are kicking off our Spring time careers event with a networking event where we try to connect companies in horticulture with our student body.
“Teagasc does open days every year, twice a year, throughout the college network that Teagasc has of 7 colleges: 4 Teagasc and 3 private, so there is always a March series of Open Days and an October series.
“As part of their course a lot of our students would do placements in the industry, so they would have a very good practical interface with the industry as part of their placement.
“Today we have a lot of companies in our new college building to present what they do to the students and for the students to present themselves to the companies so they can find out what kind of careers they would like to embark on down the road.
“With us today we have landscape companies, sportsturf companies, nurseries, organic growers, so we have a wide range of companies that represent the spectrum of horticulture out there.”
“We have over 200 students attending both part-time and full-time programmes here in the college; in the last few years we were able to embark on offering students component awards which are individual subjects of the major award.
“With the upturn on employment, full-time courses depleted, especially in the vocational sector – across Teagasc – not just in horticulture.
“Certainly the part-time offerings are what people are after: they’re looking for something that is applicable to them and their work-life balance. We have a lot of people coming back to us that are presently employed and come back to us for one day per week during the winter, and that works very well.
The importance of a Teagasc education
“Teagasc is embedded here in the National Botanic Gardens and we are very strong partners in the National Botanic Gardens with the Office of Public Works (OPW).
“We have a unique representation here where the students get to work with the craft gardeners here in the National Botanic Gardens, so I think the industry recognises that, it comes across very well, companies would be very clear that they would like to see students qualified coming out of the Teagasc Botanic Gardens mix.
“Recently, we have invested strongly as an organisation in our other research centre in Ashtown Dublin 15 – the food centre – which now embeds horticulture and forestry research, and we are now using that as another training area.
“Particularly for the industry, from a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) element, we aim to develop the facilities in Ashtown: the conference facilities the education facilities – for the industry – as much as possible.”
The student committee
“Part of the organisation process to deliver today’s open day involved a Level 6 leadership class. So the students do leadership as a subject and they have to plan and support different events and we said: this is an event, this is a major event, we get a lot of people coming through the doors.
“So they are heavily involved and they are going around the college offering all sorts of help to people and to bring them from A to B and from B to C, so yes, it was very much a student committee orientated event that was guided by my good colleague Louise Jones in her Leadership Training class.”
Employers meeting the future
“I think it is awful important for the trade to meet and suss out students of horticulture that are going to get a decent qualification. I think the horti-industry will only grow with suitably qualified people it is really important.
“This is the second year we’ve brought the companies into the mould and they are very happy to come on board. While we are coming into the Spring and it is quite busy – together with the recent storm we had, there are people with other things on their mind – but it is well supported and the companies identify that well qualified students are the key to the replacement of staff in their companies.”
Showcasing at the Teagasc Open Day and meeting with students of the college, Liam McMahon, Senior Horticultural Consultant with National Agrochemical Distributors (NAD), said: “It is great to see Teagasc and the students there being so pro-active under the team led by John.
“Altogether it was a super day and well supported by the horticultural trade across a wide range of sectors, so they all obviously see the value to their industry – sign NAD up for 2019!”
McMahon continued: “Direct interaction with the students is essential to get a two way discussion going about potential opportunities available in the industry and try to match students to key sector interests.
“The Open Days provide an opportunity for NAD to put back some work and expertise into the horticultural industry, after all we were all students at some stage with very little knowledge of the opportunities that exist for employment in Horticulture – these interactions help to plug some of the gaps for students.
“In addition, it provides us with an opportunity to meet potential future employees for the company which currently employs four full-time third-level qualified horticulturalists and we are always on the lookout for high calibre students to add to our team as vacancies arise.”