Getting people on the right path

April 4th, 2017 7:05 AM

By Southern Star Team

Instructor and resource teacher Vincent Cronin with students Chloe O'Callaghan and Colbert O'Sullivan.

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The National Learning Network, which has a base in Bantry, provides a range of skills for people who, for a variety of reasons, may find it difficult to gain employment, writes Brian Moore

IT can be difficult finding the right career. Life has a funny way of taking over and steering us off the path we would otherwise like to be on. Then, if we have the chance to once more realise our dreams, we often find that we are unprepared to make the most of the opportunity.

At the National Learning Network (NLN) the counsellors and teachers are in place to provide you with the necessary skills and supports you need to take advantage of these opportunities that come along when you least expect them to.

‘We are a specialised training provider and we have over 50 training centres nationwide,’ Fiona Brennan, acting manager at the NLN centre in Bantry told The Southern Star. ‘We provide both vocational and rehabilitative training here. The NLN has been part of life in Bantry for over 30 years now, and we have an outreach programme called “Focus” based in Clonakilty.’

At NLN in Bantry a range of free courses are provided to people who have had an accident, illness, injury or have a disability and extra support needs.

Courses are tailored to each student’s needs, to help them to build their confidence while getting practical job-seeking skills to help them get a job or go on to further training.

The NLN offers a rehabilitative training programme with students, from 18 years and up, being funded for up to three years by the HSE. This programme is designed to provide vocational skills, interpersonal skills and social skills. 

‘This programme is very much designed for community integration, helping people to access different activities out in the community,’ Fiona said.

The NLN centre in Bantry also offers various vocational programmes, which vary from 18 months to two years in duration.

‘The first course we offer is an introductory skills training programme which takes 18 months and is designed to help students explore the various vocational education and training programmes available. This is a QQI Level 3 certified course,’ Fiona continued.

All the courses and programmes at the NLN are nationally recognised and QQI certified, which is a plus when approaching a potential employer. 

The NLN also operates employer-based training courses, which allow the student to not only gain valuable work experience but also allows them to immerse themselves into the daily working schedule at their chosen job.

‘The employer-based training courses are all at QQI Level 4, and the student will train on the job for four days a week with one day back at the centre for class work. We find that there is a high success rate with these courses as students get job opportunities and apprenticeships. There have been student who have started their own businesses, and this is just one of the unique skills that the NLN can offer here in Bantry,’ Fiona said. 

However, a significant challenge facing many students at the NLN in Bantry is rural isolation and the lack of suitable rural transport. 

‘This is a huge geographical area, and transport is a major issue for many of the people who want to attend courses here,’ Fiona said. 

‘We have a great relationship with Local Link but we know that there are people out on the Beara peninsula, for example, that would find it almost impossible to access the programmes that we offer here.’ One of the most popular programmes at the NLN in Bantry is the Level 4 Horticulture course which takes two years. 

‘We are certified “organic” here and our garden centre now has a state-of-the-art glass house which means we can operate all year round. As well as the horticulture programme we also offer an office administration course, which is also two years in duration and is certified Level 5. This is a very unique course where we offer blended learning as well as one to one support,’ Fiona continued. 

Courses at the NLN in Bantry are run on a continuous intake basis, which means students can start their chosen course at any time of the year. 

Whether it’s work experience, lots of practical learning or a real hands-on experience at preparing for further education or a full time job, the NLN provides tutors who travel to give one-to-one support for students. ‘We would encourage anyone who feels they don’t know where they fit in to come and talk to us,’ says Fiona. ‘Our website has lots of information or you can give us a call and we will do what we can to set you on the right road. We have many links with employers across the region so for courses from childcare to office administration, from basic computers and ECDL to City & Guilds we can and will if possible at all shape our courses to ensure that our students get the best they possibly can out of their time at the NLN in Bantry,’ Fiona said.

• For more information log on to or call 027-51027.

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