The provision of training courses in the agriculture sector is a matter for Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority. Subject to the provisions of the Act, and other requirements it is the responsibility of the Teagasc Authority to exercise full and effective control over the organisation including the level of allowances paid to agriculture students. Ministerial responsibility is confined to matters of policy in accordance with the Act and the Minister does not interfere in the day-to-day operations of Teagasc.
The Department does not pay matching funds to Teagasc for training services. Teagasc receive an annual grant in aid allocation from the Department to deliver an approved programme of activities in the advisory, research and training areas. It is a matter for Teagasc to allocate expenditure between the different programmes.
I understand from Teagasc that students undertaking all Teagasc programmes are required to undergo a 12-week practical learning period. The practical learning period is designed to facilitate students to become proficient in the skills required to achieve their qualifications. Up to last year, students were paid the equivalent of the minimum agricultural wage by their practical learning host. In 2009, Teagasc was unable to place all students because the practical learning hosts could not afford to pay this amount to students. Accordingly, it was decided to reduce the allowance to students to €122 per week. This was deemed to be a round sum expenses allowance to cover the cost of travel and subsistence. This mirrors the situation in many other educational fields where students on practical work experience are not paid at all.