By Siobhán Cronin
OVER half of the students on a Bantry-based food diploma course will go directly into jobs, while many others are developing their own artisan products.
The remaining students will go on to further training in the food industry sector at third level.
The students, who all took part in the Diploma in Food Industry Skills course in Donemark, Bantry, were presented with their certificates by Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Simon Coveney last week.
The group studied at the National Learning Network (NLN) centre in Bantry, which is funded by Cork Education and Training Board (CETB) and aimed at those who have been unemployed and who are interested in working in the food industry at operator level, or who require the skills to support them set up their own artisan food enterprise.
The course has a mix of classroom-based and employer-based modules to ensure that the students are getting relevant hands-on work experience and job-specific skills qualifications.
Work placements are organised for students in areas ranging from large scale processors to small artisan producers.
Some students also expanded their experience by training in delicatessens that promote local West Cork food, and in the hospitality sector.
Speaking to the students, Minister Coveney said the NLN connected students from the Food Industry Skills programme with companies that were willing to take students on placement and help them to develop a new skillset.
‘This in turn provides them with an opportunity to earn income, through part-time or full-time employment, and I am happy to see that many of those graduating today have already got employment through this programme,’ the Minister added.
Speaking at the event, Lucianne Bird, acting director of the NLN said the centre was delighted to see the first students graduate. ‘They all share a passion for food, and are now equipped with the skills to work in the food industry of their choice. The range of talents amongst them is really impressive. The support of the food producers of West Cork was invaluable as they generously provided work experience and on-the-job training.’
Lucianne added that there is a community effort involved in making the course available and thanked Cork ETB for their funding and the Department of Social Protection, Cork County Council, and West Cork Development Partnership for their support.
The centre also provides full-time rehabilitative and employment training courses for people with additional support needs due to injury, illness or disability. Courses lead to QQI certification and include employability skills, access to employment, employment skills, personal mental health recovery (home focus), horticulture skills, office administration by blended learning, as well as the Focus Programme for people with mental health difficulties.