The first forestry training school was established at Avondale in 1904 by the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction under the supervision of A.C. Forbes, one of Ireland’s great forestry pioneers. While initially set up to serve the needs of private woodland owners, it played a significant role in the development of the state forestry sector during the 20th Century. As the principal forestry training school in the state during the 1920s, 30s and 40s, Avondale forestry training centre was responsible for the training of foresters and forestry foremen for work in the new state forestry sector.
With the dramatic rise in afforestation levels in the 1950s, 60s there was a significant demand for foresters and forestry workers and two additional forestry training schools were established for state foresters – Shelton Abbey Estate in County Wicklow and Kinnity Castle in Co. Offaly. Foresters were trained trained over a three year period, with their time divided between Shelton Abbey and Kinnitty Castle. By 1962 there were over 90 trainees undergoing instruction at these establishments.
A sharp decline in the demand for new foresters occurred in the 1970s, mainly due to a reduction in land availability as a result of the Common Agriculture Policy. Shelton Abbey forestry training school was closed in 1972, leaving Kinnitty Castle as the principal state forestry training school during the 1970s and 80s . During this period forestry trainees underwent an 18 month training period in Kinnitty, a year of practical field training in selected forests and a final six months study and revision period in Avondale.
Due to the decline in demand for new foresters within the state sector and the development of a significant backlog of qualified foresters Kinnitty Castle forestry training school was finally closed in 1985. While this closure saw the end of a significant era of state sector forestry training, the Forest Service continued to provide education and skills training for its workforce “in-house” up until the formation of Coillte in 1989.
Following the closure of Kinnitty there was no full-time forestry education course available in Ireland, with the exception of the UCD forestry degree programme. In 1988 Ballyhaise Agricultural College, now run by Teagasc, developed an agri-forestry course aimed at providing students with the necessary knowledge and skills to start their own farm-forestry enterprise. This development happened at a time when there was a significant increase in farm forestry activity due to the availability of EU afforestation grants and premiums. In 1994, this course was developed into a two year Certificate in Forestry course with the objective of training young people for careers within the forestry sector, incorporating a relatively large element of practical skills training.
University College Dublin
The first formal forestry education resource in Ireland was the Forestry Department at the Royal College of Science, Dublin, established in 1913 under the professorship of Augustine Henry. This was later to become part of University College Dublin (UCD), which has offered a forestry degree programme since 1927 and has been responsible for the education of many leading Irish and international foresters. Formerly a five year course with a full year of practical work experience, UCD’s undergraduate degree programme is now run over four years, resulting in a HETAC Level 8 Honours Bachelor Degree in Agricultural Science (BAgrSc (Forestry)). The UCD forestry degree programme has always been complimented by a strong post-graduate research component and this has grown significantly in recent years.
Institutes of Technology
Third level forestry education capacity was expanded significantly in the late 1990s with the development of two new forestry degree programmes, at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) in 1997 and at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) in 1998. Both programmes were developed in close consultation with industry employers including Coillte, who had identified a need for technical foresters with practical skill sets necessary for field work and supervisory positions within their forests. This increase in forestry education capacity during the late 1990s also coincided with an increase in demand for foresters from private forestry companies operating within the private forestry establishment and management sector which was undergoing a period of strong activity. Both courses were run over three years, resulting in a HETAC Level 7 Ordinary Bachelor Degree in Science (BSc in Forestry). While the GMIT course suspended student intake in 2008 and is currently not being offered, WIT expanded their offering in 2008 with an additional one year land management course with a forestry specialisation, resulting in a HETAC Level 8 Honours Bachelor Degree in Science (BSc (Hons) in Land Management.
FULL TIME COURSES
There are currently four main providers of full time education and skills training courses catering for the forestry sector in Ireland. These courses are funded through the Department of Education & Skills and primarily are aimed at new entrants preparing for a career within the forestry sector, but also are suitable for existing practitioners now seeking formal educational qualifications.
University College Dublin (UCD)
UCD offers a fulltime four year forestry honours degree programme to National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) Level 8. The programme is considered to be more focused on providing a broad forestry education rather than on preparing students for specific jobs within the forestry sector. UCD also offers masters degree and doctoral degree opportunities through its broad range of forestry related research programmes. The honours degree and masters programmes are accredited by the Society of Irish Foresters and the UK Institute of Chartered Foresters.
Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)
WIT offers a fulltime three year forestry ordinary degree programme (NFQ Level 7) with the option of an additional one year honours degree programme in land management (NFQ Level 8). The ordinary degree programme is considered to be somewhat more vocational than UCD, and is more focused on preparing students for specific technical jobs within the forestry sector. WIT also offers masters degree and doctoral degree opportunities through its broad range of forestry and wood-energy related research programmes.
Teagasc offers a fulltime one year forestry certificate programme (NFQ Level 5) with the option of an additional one year advanced certificate programme (NFQ Level 6). This is a highly practical vocational education and training (VET) programme primarily aimed at preparing students for practical, operational jobs within the forestry sector, and in particular the establishment and management sectors. There is considerable emphasis placed on practical work experience, particularly in the second year. Students attaining their Level 5 certificate can progress to WIT outside of the CAO system, under the FETAC – HETAC linkages programme.
Forestry advisory, promotional and training services are provided to the farm forestry sector by Teagasc in conjunction with the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Practical training courses are held on various aspects of forest management. Further information is available at: Teagasc Forestry
The Native Woodland Scheme training course is targeted at training those directly involved in working with the scheme, including foresters, ecologists, landowners, Forest Service personnel, National Parks & Wildlife Service, Coillte, Teagasc etc. It offers a basic introduction by experts to native woodland ecology and management. The courses are run as part of the joint Forest Service/ Woodlands of Ireland Programme. Further information is available at Woodlands of Ireland
The Landscape Design Courses covers the concept of landscape and its importance, character, sensitivity and distinctiveness. It also examines the role forests play in the Irish landscape of today and how to manage the change that afforestation and forest management bring. The course, which represents a useful opportunity to present the Sustainable Forest Management message, is run as part of the joint Forest Service/Tree Council of Ireland programme. Further information is available at Tree Council of Ireland
Other training and knowledge sharing initiatives coordinated by the Forest Service, COFORD and forestry sector representative bodies provide a range of useful education and skills training and continuous professional development opportunities for existing industry members. Initiatives include:
COFORD runs a range of workshops focused on the forestry and wood energy sectors. These knowledge sharing and training initiatives disseminate up-to-date and highly relevant research outputs to practicing forestry professionals, including timber yield modelling tools (GROWFOR) and timber supply forecasting tools (FORECAST GIS).
Society of Irish Foresters (SIF)
SIF, the representative body of the forestry profession in Ireland, provides a range of education and knowledge transfer services to its members and the wider forestry sector. Its objectives include the promotion of a greater knowledge and understanding of forestry in all its aspects and the establishment, securing and monitoring of standards in forestry education. SIF host a range of field days, study tours, workshops, lectures and symposia, often organised in co-operation with other bodies such as ITGA (see below), COFORD and Teagasc. SIF also provides regular updates to its members about ongoing training and knowledge transfer activities within the Irish forestry sector. SIF introduced a programme of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in 2003 as a means of confirming that professional foresters are up to date in current forestry practice and other matters of professional development.
Irish Timber Growers Association (ITGA)
ITGA, the representative body of private woodland owners in Ireland, offers education and knowledge transfer to its members through an annual schedule of field days, seminars and meetings. Education and training initiatives are often organised in co-operation with other bodies such as SIF, COFORD and Teagasc. ITGA’s emphasis is on knowledge transfer among Ireland’s private forest owners with an underlying aim to maximise the potential from private forestry plantations by the implementation of good forest management practices throughout their rotation.
ProSilva Ireland is a non-profit organisation founded to develop and promote continuous cover forestry management principles as an alternative to clear felling in Irish forestry. Its members are convinced of the need in Ireland for a greater range of silvicultural skills amongst foresters and forest owners. ProSilva Ireland offers formal training to its members on different aspects of continuous cover forestry. They provide on-going education and knowledge transfer to members through training courses, field days and foreign visits.
Forestry Training and Education Ireland (FTEI), which administers and manages the national approved forestry skills training programme, commissioned a report titled Forestry Training and Education Needs Analysis. This comprehensive report, compiled in April 2011 by Mark Tarleton of Purser Tarleton, Russell Ltd, identifies the current training priorities within the industry and predicts future needs which will aid in the development of a plan for the sustainable delivery of education and training resources into the future.