Ag graduate handbook launched online

The UCD Agricultural Society Careers Committee launched its annual graduate handbook on YouTube with three keynote speakers addressing the 100 strong audience of students, employers and faculty.

Sean Tonra Chair of the Agricultural Society’s Careers Committee welcomed final year UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science students to a virtual event this Thursday the 15th of April to launch the 2021 Graduate Handbook. Students were provided with the opportunity to showcase the practical skills, professional experience, and academic accomplishments they gained over the course of their degree programmes to potential employers and industry professionals. A self-composed student profile and contact details were accompanied by pictures in the handbooks, which were posted to students over the past week.

Deputy Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Dr Anne-Marie Butler, President of the Agricultural Science Association; and Prof. Alex Evans, Dean of Agriculture and Head of School for Agriculture and Food Sciences all contributed to the proceedings. This is the first time the event has been held over an online medium of communication with the Society’s 2020 Careers’ Day narrowly missing the onset of Covid-19 disruptions to third level institutions. Organisers hope to hold an in-person event later in the year, dependent on a scaling back of current restrictions.

Speaking on the relationships fostered over students’ time in Belfield, Tonra observed that the “community spirit and camaraderie of the Class of 2021 has stood the test of time and is still relevant on the virtual world”. Tonra also commented on the “strangeness” of the current situation but expressed an appreciation of the “adaptable, resilient and determined committee” which enabled the organising of a successful online event.

Minister McConalogue, an Alma Mater of economics, history and politics in UCD, recognised the challenges posed to students by distance learning. The rewarding career prospects offered through the attainment of a third level qualification in the sectors of agricultural, food science and human nutrition were also addressed. The minister acknowledged students’ “fortitude in complying with the guidelines and making a contribution to stopping the spread of the virus”, a move welcomed by a class which has undoubtedly miss out on many practical learning opportunities provided by visits to the UCD Lyon’s Research Farm.

Going to college is a really important life stage and I must commiserate with you on missing out on the full experience of the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic – Min. McConalogue.

Minister McConalogue admitted that although the export orientated agri-food sector is facing a “particularly challenging period”, the industry will overcome the pandemic setbacks and “become more adaptable and resilient as a result”. Among the diverse tasks graduates will encounter in employment settings, the minister outlined industry objectives of improving global food security and “feeding many more beyond our shores”; as well as working to continue the “high degree of confidence in our [Irish] food offerings”. 

A soon to be released draft on the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine’s “ten-year ambitious blueprint for the agri-food sector” was also discussed by the Minister. The document, which will take over from the current Food Wise 2025 strategy, will outline actions intended in navigating the sector through challenges and will seek to unify the three pillars of agricultural sustainability under shared goals, according to comments made by the minister. Outlined were the four high-level missions the document will seek to deliver on relating to: climate and sustainability; a viable production model; safe and appealing food; and innovation and competitiveness.

Dr Anne-Marie Butler acknowledged the close relationship that exists between the Agricultural Science Association and UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science alumni. Dr Butler congratulated students for their achievements to date and applauded the Careers Committee for organising the virtual event, before encouraging students to join the association to avail of the career development and professional networking opportunities offered by the ASA. Tonra acknowledged the “phenomenal help” offered by Dr. Butlers’ association to the Ag Soc Careers Committee in his introductory remarks.

Prof. Alex Evans expressed his thoughts on the “remarkable” reaction of students and faculty to the challenges encountered since last year’s event, as well as a “great sadness” in being unable to attend an in-person launch. The Dean acknowledged the ”leadership, support and motivation” shown by Ag Soc, with particular gratitude shown to Careers Chair, Sean Tonra. Prof. Evans also thanked Farm Relief Services for their continued support of the handbook.