Did you know that a large community learning network exists in Donegal?
People of all ages and life stages take part in short community education courses at their local community centres, family resource centres and other centres, to train in new skills and pursue new lifestyle hobbies.
The Community Education Support Programme is funded by Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service.
It is the largest section of the ETB’s FET Service with almost 5,000 learners in 2017 completing accredited courses in a wide range of subjects from skills for employment to the creative arts.
The programme targets community-based women’s and men’s groups, community arts groups, Travellers, people with disabilities, older people, lone parents groups, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups and ethnic minority groups.
Donegal Daily talked to three learners who enjoyed Community Education courses in their localities to find out what they gained from signing up:
Paul Bradley, a former Mayor of Buncrana, qualified with a QQI Level 6 in Social Analysis funded by the ETB’s Community Education Support Programme through Inishowen Development Partnership.
The Inishowen man was a supermarket business owner for over 40 years before it entered into liquidation.
Trying to rebuild his professional life, the 60-year-old admitted that the course was informative and ‘taxing on the brain’.
Paul said: “When I joined the course, we had to do a PowerPoint presentation and a written assignment. It was quite challenging, but I found this rewarding.
“The challenge of actually putting together the PowerPoint presentation, picking a particular topic, I found it very rewarding – it was taxing on the brain.
“Also, there was a certain amount of research – so, those aspects I found those most rewarding.”
The 10-week long course involved learning social change through collective action, challenging inequality and developing an understanding of social analysis and how it relates to their experiences.
The former company director was delighted with the skills that he was provided in the course, praising the ‘brilliant’ work of his tutor, Francine Blaché Breen.
“Francine (Blaché Breen) was absolutely brilliant,” he added. “When I first looked at the course, I wasn’t quite sure what it was, and to have such a brilliant tutor, who was so informed – both nationally and internationally – she made the course exceptionally interesting from my point of view.”
Annie Gallagher, who has recently retired at 65, earned skills in several community education classes at the Downstrands Family Resource Centre in Portnoo. Taking courses such as jewellery making has led Annie to realise a new-found love for art and design.
“I have found now that I absolutely love art,” she said. “At this stage in my life, it brought out my talents that I didn’t even know that I had! I just loved going to the art classes.”
After participating and completing several courses with the ETB, Annie admitted it was a great feeling to finally complete the courses.
“Well, first of all, you meet new people and new friends, so it was really good to complete the course,” she said.
“I did the courses during the winter time and it got me through those times. I could get out and about and have somewhere to go and you find out a lot about yourself when you go to these courses.
“You talk about yourself, you’re finding out new things every day and you’re opening up to others instead of keeping it all locked up inside.”
Claire Doherty from Clonmany has gained qualifications in both PAL – Personal and Interpersonal Development Course and Electronic Engineering (QQI Level 4) training.
“We learned all about how to approach living professionally and personally. I was doing it out of interest, other people did it to learn how to be more assertive in the workplace and at home.”
The QQI Level 4 course was seven weeks of learning skills in teamwork, leadership, projects, planning and goal-setting.
Claire began the course directly after finishing her Leaving Cert, so the programme was a step into education that helped prepare her for college.
“When I went to college in St Angela’s in Sligo I found it easy to start into the Access Programme,” she said.
After this, Claire signed up to an Electronic Engineering QQI Level 4 course through the Inishowen Development Partnership (IDP).
“This was a brilliant course too. It was run at night-time. We learned how to make our own apps, how to control Bluetooth and Wifi devices and build skills in engineering.”
Claire enjoyed this practical learning course, which was 70% continuous assessment and 30% exam-based.
As a young person progressing her education journey from further to higher education, Claire found the STEM course helped her decide on her full-time degree:
“I was interested in Electronic Engineering, but I realised that I preferred it as a hobby and I wouldn’t want it as a full-time job. I finished Access in March and I have applied to do Building Services and Renewable Energy at LYIT this September.”
Claire enjoyed the courses so much that she is hoping to do more to add to her skill set.
She added: “These certificates are great for your CV. I’m constantly looking for courses for when I have free time. I would recommend them to anyone. The PAL course would be great for somebody getting back to work or looking to improve their work relationships, while the Engineering course is more for building skills.”
Courses funded through the Community Education Support Programme include skills for employment, arts and media, business, IT/Computers, personal development/family/parenting, health and wellbeing, community development, cultural studies/language, creative arts and crafts, leisure and hobbies and horticulture/gardening and many more.
To find out more, check out Donegal ETB’s website on https://www.donegaletb.ie/further-education-training/adult-learning/community-education/ or contact Donegal ETB’s Community Education Facilitators, Catherine Friel (Inishowen, South and East Donegal) on 087 1853050 / email@example.com or Sinéad Campbell (An Ghaeltacht, West and South Donegal) on 074 972 5520/087 357 3954 / firstname.lastname@example.org .Tags: