A Donegal woman with a visual impairment says the support of Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB) helped her succeed in her return to education.
Mary Crossin from Milford, originally from Derry, recently completed an evening course in Business Administration with Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service.
She credits the staff of the ETB’s Letterkenny Training Centre for the adaptations they made to enable her to fully participate in the programme. Mary’s guide dog Bramble was also warmly welcomed to the classroom!
Mary enrolled on the programme to upskill as part of the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind’s Employment Vision Project, funded by Pobal. She works as an administrator on the project and is also a participant.
“The whole experience was really positive and supportive. It helped me to do well in my exams,” Mary said of Donegal ETB.
“As soon as I registered, they arranged for me to meet the Student Support Officer who assessed my needs. They made sure that the facilities were suitable for a guide dog. Everyone was very receptive to Bramble and my tutor Mary Feeney provided me with whatever I needed.”
Mary was delighted that all her requests could be accommodated. She was given a laptop with magnification software, enlarged font notes, additional time for exams and her slides were emailed in advance of a class so she could familiarise herself with the content.
“The Letterkenny centre is a great facility with ramps and everyone from the cafeteria to the class were very accommodating for me and Bramble. All those extra details were very helpful,” she said.
The Business Administration course (https://www.donegaletb.ie/course-detail/?CourseId=402104) is delivered part-time one evening per week across 13 weeks. It is a single module which provides a broad overview of office administration work and the business sector. Students gain a QQI Level 5 Minor Award for the skills they gain, such as forming agendas and reports, quality control, stock control, credit and cash flow, sources of finance, insurance and processing business documents. Students also have the opportunity to complete further modules in taxation, payroll and bookkeeping.
Mary had previously worked in the civil service in Northern Ireland and in an office role in Australia. When she returned to Ireland, she focused on music. She is a talented harpist, a singer and traditional musician.
“I had plenty of office experience but I felt I could reskill or upskill to have a qualification to back it up,” she said.
“After having kids and not being able to drive, I find employment options limited, especially in Donegal, there is some work I can’t do realistically when I just don’t have the eyesight to work in areas such as retail.
“After COVID, remote working has made more options possible.”
Mary’s new role with the Employment Vision Project opened up the prospect of working with people who are blind or visually impaired to help them return to work or education. Mary and her project manager assist people with any aspect of employment, and it often begins with education.
For other participants, accessibility remains an issue.
“A lot of our participants are very highly qualified, their achievements and high levels of education are amazing but they need the opportunity to gain employment. Some employers are reluctant to give people opportunities, our work is trying to cross that bridge for highly motivated and intelligent individuals to create opportunities for them.”
As part of her own journey, Mary met with a career guidance counsellor in the Employment Vision Project who recommended a return to in-person learning to enjoy a more supportive learning environment.
Mary found Donegal ETB’s course very interesting overall, particularly the study of the non-profit charity sector.
Now that she has this Level 5 award ticked off, she is planning to do more.
She said: “I would like to brush up on more admin skills to have a more in-depth understanding and knowledge of the various software packages. I like communicating and connecting with people so I’ll read up on courses as I decide which lane to do down.”
Mary’s story is a testament to the dedication and commitment of Donegal ETB in providing inclusive and accessible education to all.
“I would recommend Donegal ETB to anyone considering going into an admin role or re-entering studying again or applying for work.
“The ETB was really encouraging, they have great facilities and staff. I will definitely use it as a stepping stone to continue my own studies.”
If you’re thinking about changing career, upskilling or reskilling in 2023, Donegal ETB’s FET Service currently has a wide range of evening courses available which are now open for applications on their website: www.donegaletb.ie/fetcoursefinder or call their Letterkenny Training Centre on 074 91 20500.
Evening courses are funded by the European Union – NextGenerationEU.