A course aiming to train jobseekers and people in receipt of Farm Assist payments to become dairy operatives will begin in September, according to the Department of Social Protection.
A new pilot training programme is set to attract jobseekers into the dairy sector in Kilkenny and Waterford.
The ‘Dairy Operative Skills Programme’ has been developed to tackle the acute skilled labour shortage in dairying.
An analysis of labour market needs for the local dairy sector was undertaken by the South East Regional Skills Forum.
It is supported by the Department of Social Protection, Teagasc, the Irish Farmers’ Association and Farm Relief Services.
A 4-week pilot training course is due to begin in September on a part-time basis and has been developed to provide interested jobseekers with the necessary skills required to be employed as dairy operatives.
The department is currently making contact with jobseekers in the area to invite them to learn more about this course and opportunities within the dairy sector.
Jobseekers who participate in this part-time training course will retain their usual social welfare payment during the course, under the Part-Time Education Option scheme rules, the department confirmed.
“It is important to state clearly that all jobseekers who obtain employment subsequent to this or any other such training course will be subject to the same conditions as all other jobseekers.
“The usual means tests rules and scheme conditions will apply. Social welfare entitlements are dependent on the precise circumstances and/or means of the individual applicant.
“Jobseekers who take up part-time work may retain a portion of their jobseeker’s payment subject to some conditions,” the department added.
Meanwhile, while news of this scheme has been welcomed, more measures are needed to address the labour shortages issue in the sector, according to the IFA’s National Dairy Chairman, Sean O’Leary.
The IFA believes that the scheme currently being piloted in the southeast has the potential to be rolled out to other agricultural sectors, where labour shortages are also an issue.
However, providing work permits for qualified workers will also be part of addressing the issue, it added.
O’Leary said: “The scheme will ensure suitable applicants receive some basic training as dairy operatives, especially in the area of milking.
“Teagasc, FRS, the IFA and the Department of Social Protection have all committed to encouraging possible candidates to come forward for training.
“Training takes place over four weeks, the bulk of which is on-farm placements, with four days in Kildalton Agricultural College. Successful applicants, after completing the training, may be employed by FRS or by farmers directly.
There is real potential here for people who need to top up their incomes, through attractive part or full-time employment, and to even start a promising career in the vibrant Irish dairy sector.
“Social welfare recipients may, in certain circumstances, be able to work up to a certain number of hours per week without losing all of their benefits; but this will depend on their individual situation, and will have to be checked with the department,” he concluded.