Locals are working together to address a void in the community after the closure of a valued training facility
IF your New Year’s resolution is to take up a new hobby, learn a new skill or even start your own business, Castletownbere has plenty on offer right now. A new initiative launched earlier this month – Castletownbere Skills Share – will run courses in everything from arts and crafts to business skills and languages, along with accredited courses in food hygiene and computers skills.
For a number of years training courses were held in Castletownbere in the Adult Education Centre, under the auspices of the Irish Vocational Educational Committee (VEC), which later became the Education Training Board (ETB). However in September 2015, this facility closed leaving not just the town, but the whole of the Beara Peninsula without a dedicated training facility.
The closure of the facility meant that those living in Beara area now had to travel to Bantry, Kenmare and beyond for basic training. In November, a number of concerned local residents came together and held a public meeting to discuss how they could utilise the skills of those living in Beara to once again, hold training courses in the area. Sarah Lowney, owner of The Great and Co who sells the work of local arts and crafts workers, was one of the organisers of the meeting. Working in the craft industry, Sarah is only too aware of the wealth of talent in the area: ‘One thing that has always seemed to be lacking in Castletownbere is the facility for like-minded people to come together and share the skills that are already here. Even with previous services operating in the town, there was a lot of red tape, and various regulations, which meant that a large number of skilled people were unable to pass on their skills.’
The meeting was well attended and included representatives from schools in the area, community organisations and the local library service. All were adamant that they did not want to lose a training service in the Beara area. It was decided to form Castletownbere Skills Share. Premises were secured in the former Beara Bay Hotel in the town, and within a matter of weeks, a number of courses were set up, and equipment sourced to furnish the new premises. Sarah welcomed the support and determination to get the new organisation up and running, stating that ‘this has all evolved in just four weeks, the whole idea just took on a life of its own.’ Sarah explains that Castletownbere Skills Share is set up as a not-for-profit organisation. ‘We are open to all ideas, and by operating as not-for-profit, it will give us the scope to provide a variety of styles of learning, from an informal get-together of individuals for a weekly knitting group to a structured accredited computer course. We can also provide a venue for local business start-ups to grow and expand with tutoring in accountancy, first aid, food hygiene and marketing.’
Castletownbere Skills Share held its launch day on Wednesday, January 6th, and organisers were delighted to confirm a number of courses already arranged for January and February, including crochet for beginners on Mondays, creating images within art on Saturdays and Digital photography also on Saturdays.
They will also hold courses in the following subjects within the next few weeks: first aid, basic food hygiene, manual handling, foreign languages, creative writing, aromatherapy, computer skills, household budgeting, tourism and event marketing, quilting, business mentoring and interior design.
There will be a minimal charge for all courses in order to cover overheads, most of which will run from 6-8 weeks, and will mainly be under €100. They are also looking into hosting shorter courses for visitors and tourists during the summer months.
Castletownbere Skills Share organisers are also keen to stress that they will still work with the relevant training authorities in order to run accredited courses in food hygiene, computers and manual handling. ‘It’s our aim that Castletownbere Skills Share will act as a bridge between the learners and the authorities.’
Castletownbere Skills Share is entirely self-funded, and dependent on goodwill from the local community says Sarah. ‘We held a fundraiser and were able to get a laptop and printer with the proceeds, and have had donations of equipment. We would appeal to anyone if they have old computer equipment they no longer need if they could donate it to us. A local computer shop, Beara Computers, has agreed to clear hard drives, and make them ready for our use.’
There will be a drop-in session, staffed on a voluntary basis from Monday to Friday from 11am-2pm for information on courses and booking. ‘We are open to all possibilities, and suggestions for courses. There is a genuine need for this in Beara. This is for the local community, and the local community are driving it.’
For further details on Castletownbere Skills Share, or to book a course see the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/skillssharecastletownbere or email the [email protected] or call 083-8076999.