Three ambitious people are on the crest of a wave after completing year-long surfing programmes with Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service.
The ETB’s FET Service provides three exciting full-time sports courses for people seeking active careers; an Outdoor Activity Instructor Traineeship, Surf Instructor and Beach Lifeguard Training, and a Sports, Recreation and Exercise Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses are all popular options at the moment.
As enrollment season gets underway, Donegal Daily talked to three recent surf learners to hear about the highlights of their experience:
Stephen Thompson (29) has been working ‘flat out’ all summer after securing a job from the Surf Instructor and Beach Lifeguard Training course.
Stephen completed his working experience in the Donegal Adventure Centre – where the ETB course is taught in South Donegal – and he stayed on for the busy summer months in Bundoran.
Stephen says his passion lies in surfing. “I used to bunk off school to go surfing. People always said you’ll never get a job doing that, but I’m doing it now!
“My work is totally different at the Donegal Adventure Centre. We do surfing, ropes, take youth groups out on adventures, coasteering and kayaking.
“It’s really fun working with kids. It’s great seeing them come in all nervous and leaving happy at the end of the day. It’s very rewarding work.”
Stephen praises the tuition at Donegal ETB for helping him to become a good swimmer with life-saving skills and to gain a greater understanding of the ocean. Qualifications in the programme are internationally recognised to give learners employment opportunities all over the world.
Stephen said: “The centre is full of well-qualified staff. I passed my exams the first time around the teaching was so good.
“I’d recommend this course to others. It’s my favourite course I’ve ever done because surfing is my passion,” he said.
When Francis Duffy heard about the ETB’s Surf Instructor and Beach Lifeguard programme she jumped at the opportunity.
Francis, who is originally from Belfast, moved to Ballyshannon over 20 years ago to raise a family and work in accounting – but she admitted that field of work never ‘satisfied’ her.
“I was working in accounting in Sligo and I was happy with what I was doing but at the same time I was never satisfied,” she said.
“I was married with a family, so I wasn’t going to leave a job to do something else, but I always liked sports like running, swimming and surfing.”
The 40-year-old was keen to thank her coaches:
“There is no way on Earth I would have got what I did get if I didn’t have the coaches and the administrative desk.
“Beach lifeguarding is all about teamwork, so my group were supportive of each other, but the expertise, talent and support were fantastic.
“There was a family environment there and that was really helpful, it got us through, there is so much more to be gained from the course than you can write down on paper.”
Francis now works at the Donegal Adventure Centre as one of the core instructors and tutors and she highlighted the unbreakable ‘team spirit’ as the most rewarding part of the course.
“The team-spirit, gaining that team spirit was how we achieved it, which was a difficult thing, we had to work together and we achieve it as a team, not only me.”
Thomas (Teddy) Kelly, who was born in Glasgow, lived and worked in several countries before making the move from New Zealand to Donegal, studying the Surf Instructor and Beach Lifeguard course.
“I left school when I was 17 and went to college to study outdoor education,” he said. “I then went travelling and worked in four or five different countries in different adventure centres and outdoor tourism.
“I got back from New Zealand and I had a friend in Donegal who said there was an adventure centre here, so I came across and soon realised that the main employment here was surfing, so I started the course to get another feather in my cap.”
The course, which is assessed by a surf and beach lifeguard theory and an exam, lasts for 27 weeks and Kelly admitted it felt good to complete the course.
“It felt good for the beach lifeguard because I struggled with my swimming, not so much in the sea, but in the swimming pool I wasn’t great, but when I completed it, it was a very good sense of achievement.
“I have done a lot of instructorship in the past like kayaking skiing, rock climbing, so I was delighted, as I said before, to add another feather to the cap.”
Visit www.donegaletb.ie to find more information about the surf and outdoor activity instructor courses and PLC courses at Finn Valley College Stranorlar and Errigal College Letterkenny starting in the coming weeks or email firstname.lastname@example.org with course inquiries.
Specific skills courses (surf instructor and beach lifeguard and outdoor activity instructor traineeship) are co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) 2014-2020.Tags: