A young Donegal woman is looking forward to a career full of opportunities after using Youthreach as a stepping stone to University. Youthreach is one of the many Further Education and Training (FET) programmes offered by Donegal ETB’s FET Service.
Carmel Doherty (25) from Desertegney, Buncrana left school at the age of 14. She went through a difficult time at a young age and was unsure what path to take next.
“I wanted to go back to education, but you can’t just leave and go back to school. That’s when I found out about Youthreach,” Carmel told Donegal Daily.
Youthreach is a free education, training and work experience programme for young people aged 16-20 years who have left school early. It provides people with the qualifications and life skills to progress to employment or other further education. There are six centres across Donegal in Ballyshannon, Buncrana, Glengad, Gortahork, Letterkenny and Lifford, managed by Donegal ETB.
Carmel loved her three years in the Buncrana-based programme.
“I’m so grateful that it was there for me. Looking back now, I don’t know what else I would have done,” she said.
Carmel described Youthreach learning as similar to school in ways, but more varied and task-based.
“You still have to work,” she said. “You just put the head down and do it.”
“There is a much smaller group than school classes. Everybody knows each other better and you can build a better relationship with the teachers. It really helped me come out of my shell,” Carmel said.
Work experience is also an important part of the Youthreach programme. Other qualifications include basic food hygiene, ECDL, First Aid and Gaisce Awards.
Carmel explored many aspects of the world of work through placements at Fort Dunree Military Museum, a local playschool, a national school, a hairdressers and a bookshop.
“We did placements every Wednesday and in summer blocks. This gave me plenty of time to try out many jobs and get a feel for what I wanted to do,” she said.
Carmel completed Youthreach at 17 years of age and moved on to college a year ahead of her peers in post-primary school. She is a talented artist, so she decided to pursue her passion by doing an Art Diploma in North West Regional College Derry. Her QQI (formerly FETAC), Level 3 and 4 qualifications from Youthreach were sufficient to secure her place on the diploma. She followed this up with a BTEC Higher National Diploma in Fashion & Textiles.
After four years in Derry, Carmel decided to follow a different direction.
“I was going to finish my degree in England, but I felt a need to do something more life-changing. I wanted to work in a career that would help people.
“I took a year out and was advised to do an Access course in Derry. That was when I got a taster of Psychology. I applied to Ulster University and got in last September.
“I’m in my second year in Coleraine now and really enjoying it. Psychology is a very interesting subject,” she said.
Carmel is looking forward to exploring the many career opportunities her degree will present when she finishes the course, perhaps even combining her skills in art and psychology.
Carmel was invited back to the Buncrana Youthreach Centre recently to share her success story.
She said: “I told the learners how Youthreach was a good platform for me to get into college. Everybody has different routes in life. If school doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world.”
For any young school leaver looking to get back into education, Carmel’s advice is to go for it:
“I loved my time at Youthreach. As long as you make use of all the opportunities that are there for you, I would say 100% do it.”
Donegal’s six Youthreach centre are now enrolling for the new term. If you, or someone you know, is thinking about joining the programme, you can find more information at this link: http://www.donegaletb.ie/schools-youth-services/youthreach/.
You can also call the Youthreach Centres on the following numbers:
- Ballyshannon (Eoin) – 071 98 51286
- Buncrana/Glengad (Jayne) – 074 93 62626
- Gortahork (Caitriona) – 074 91 35218
- Letterkenny (Gillian) – 074 91 22585
- Lifford (Aidan) – 074 91 42114
Youthreach is co-funded by the Government of Ireland, the European Social Fund and the Youth Employment Initiative as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) 2014-2020.Tags: