Graduate Development Programme - Diploma in Leadership for the Agri Food Sector

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Graduate training is a vital part of the development of young professionals for the modern workplace. Many sectors have well established graduate training programmes. While some of the larger food companies have dedicated graduate training programmes, SMEs in Ireland have limited scope to develop sectorally-relevant graduate training programmes that meet the developmental needs of young graduates entering this sector. In response to this, Macra Agricultural Skillnet and UCC have collaborated to offer an exceptional, significantly subsidised graduate programme now in it's second year. This agri-food specific graduate development programme which leads to a level 7 Diploma in Leadership for the Agri-Food Sector offers a valuable bridge between University and working life and will provide relevant business, management, leadership and professional development skills to young graduates in SME companies, without burdening the companies with the expense of developing an in-house programme.

Aims and Objectives

This programme is designed to meet the management and leadership development needs of young agri-food graduates in the first three years of their working life. Alongside the core technical business skills and best practice tools, the programme will equip participants with motivation and coaching skills that will enhance their professional identity and capability. As a result of this programme, participants will be able to embrace new challenges within their organisation and help to grow and have a lasting impact on their company in this fast-paced industry.

Who should attend?

  • Graduates who are working in an SME agri-food company and have the ambition and motivation to develop their core management skills.
  • Graduates of Food Science, Agriculture or related disciplines who have graduated in recent years, ideally.
  • For applicants without a Level 8 Degree, prior experiential learning and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) will be taken into account.

What our Current Students Say

“The Diploma in Leadership course is a fantastic opportunity to gain some formal education behind the aspects of management and leadership that are so integral to career development in the food industry. A great insight into all aspects of leadership and management from the importance of communication, project management, time management and financial information”

Ms Léan O’Connor BSc, MSc Food Science & Technology,  Business Development Manager,  Drover Foods Ltd.


“The Diploma is very relevant for anyone seeking to move towards a more supervisory or management role, with real references and scenarios. It gave me the opportunity to learn and work alongside future leaders of the agri-food sector”

Mr Tennyson Egar B.Agr.Sc,  Operations and Strategic Account Manager, Irish Hereford Prime

Programme Design and Delivery

The Programme design facilitates individuals who wish to study on a part-time basis and integrate their studies with their careers. Participants will attend ten two-day interactive workshops which will be held alternately at UCC,  and a geographically convenient hotel venue, or indeed online should Covid restrictions dictate.

An in-company project is undertaken by each student which enables course participants to gain an in-depth appreciation of a topic of their choice within their company. In addition, the in-company project affords each participant an opportunity to apply, test and integrate the theories, concepts and frameworks presented throughout the whole course. The incompany project will be based on research conducted in the participant’s company, or within the market served by the company, or with stakeholders relevant to the participant’s company.  Participants will be mentored by FITU and also by an in-company mentor in the development and implementation of the project. In addition, participants will be visited in their place of work to help maximise the outcomes and impact of their project and its relevance to their company.

Programme Modules

 VENUE:   UCC/Centrally located hotel venue / Online (Covid dependent)


1. Introduction to Management

  • Different management styles & structures
  • Models of management in successful agri-food businesses
  • Own management/leadership style evolution, how may vary with situation
20th, 21st Oct 2021

2. Performance Management

  • Models for Performance Measurement
  • Understanding and harnessing the varying performance drivers in people
  • Toolkit for getting the best out of both oneself & individuals; managing conflict
17th, 18th Nov 2021

3. Business Planning

  • From Mission Statement to Business Plan
  • Defining steps to finalised business plan, from feasibility to product/service launch
  • Swot analysis; KPI selection for measuring actuals
8th, 9th Dec 2021

4. Time Management

  • Principles of effective Time Management
  • Toolkit for prioritising work, delegation, ranking, scheduling
  • Building awareness of own daily pattern of energy levels and working around same
12th, 13th, Jan 2022

5. Project Management & Team working

  • Project frameworks
  • Project planning, implementation, follow up
  • Behaviour in teams, team building, getting the best from your team

2th, 3rd Feb 2022 


  • Introduction to Six Sigma Lean methodology
  • Practical tools to help ease embedding of Lean in organisation
2nd, 3rd Mar 2022 

7. Communication & Presentation skills

  • Effective communication skills, learning to read non-verbal communication
  • Effective influencing
  • Keys to successful presentations
30th, 31st Mar 2022 

8. Decision Making and Critical Thinking

  • Main Decision making models explained, their optimal usage
  • How personal & group think impacts decision making
  • Critical thinking skills, to aid effective decision making
27th, 28th Apr 2022 

9. Finance for Non Financial Managers

  • Basics of accounting : P&L, Balance Sheet, Cashflow
  • Budgets, forecasts, actuals reporting
  • Product costing, pricing, receivables and debt management
25th, 26th May 2022 

10. Innovation, Sales & Marketing

  • What is Innovation, how to nurture it in oneself & others
  • Brainstorming, creativity, idea generation
  • Effective selling, negotiating, making a pitch
15th, 16th JUne 2022 



Why Choose this Diploma

  • This Diploma structure is based on over twenty seven years’ experience training young professionals through the Food Industry Training Unit, University College Cork ( in the agri-food sector.
  • A dedicated, experienced and tested team of a programme manager, lecturers and administration staff run this programme. The programme manager will ensure ongoing mentoring and coaching and this is complemented by the presence of lecturers and presenters.
  • The UCC team will work closely with participants and their companies in order to address individual and company needs. This will involve visits by UCC to participating companies.
  • This proposed programme is a completely bespoke graduate development programme designed specifically to meet the needs of young graduates in the Irish SME, agri-food sector.
  • The FITU provides ready access to national and international networks of subject matter experts who contribute on an ongoing basis to our programmes.
  • The programme has a University status to provide academic integrity to the programme as well as access to teaching methodologies, locations and facilities.
  • This programme will be accredited by University College Cork at level 7 in the National Framework of Qualifications.

Funding Acknowledgement

Macra Agricultural Skillnet is co-funded by Skillnet Ireland and member  companies. Skillnet Ireland is funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills; See

Registration and Cost

Click here for further information and registration

Cost: The net cost to the company is €4,700 per student, payable in two instalments in October 2021 and January 2022. Places are limited to a maximum number of twenty.

The brochure for the 2020/2021 academic year is available here: Graduate Development Programme Brochure


Funding Acknowledgment: Macra Agricultural Skillnet is co-funded by Skillnet Ireland and member companies. Skillnet Ireland is funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills; See Macra. ie/skillnet

For further information please contact:

Deirdre Hilliard

Food Industry Training Unit

School of Food and Nutritional Sciences

College of Science, Engineering and Food Science University College Cork, Ireland

Tel. +353 21 490 3273 Mob: +353 86 383 0011


FITU, UCC and Macra Logo

Food Industry Training Unit

University College Cork , Western Road, Cork