The 2nd Adult Learners' Forum of Ireland (ALFI) meeting took place on October 26th in the Ashling Hotel, and despite the horrendous weather of the previous days, fifty learners from across the country gathered to discuss and hear about Local Adult Learner Forums.
A full report of the day will be made available and put on the ALFI section of the AONTAS website in due course, but here are some of the details of how the day unfolded.
What is the only form of education that gives you skills for employment, builds your confidence and creates healthy, critically thinking, active communities?Community education emerged in Ireland in the 1980's, as a response to consequences of the recession such as unemployment, addiction and disenfranchisement. Now, in the midst of another recession some thirty years later, community education is coming into its own again, providing education which is relevant, learner centred, and sowing seeds for social action.
Learners at the ALFI meeting in Athlone in November 2010
At last year's Adult Learners' Forum of Ireland (ALFI) meeting, one of the main areas of discussion was how to develop a sustainable national platform for Adult Learners. Participants at the inaugural ALFI meeting not only wanted to see a strong national voice, they realised that if it was to grow and develop, it needed to be built on solid foundations.
Basket with Inis Oirr quilt produced by Mna le Cheile
Research on the benefits of adult learning shows that adult learning helps to build confidence and self esteem. These are the building blocks of small enterprise - with confidence come ideas, and the commitment to pursue them.
A great example of adult learning which is making inroads into small enterprise is Mná le Chéile - a group of women based on Inis Oirr on the Aran Islands. The group was the recipient of an AONTAS STAR Award in February of this year. I recently spoke to Mary McCarty, a member of the group who explained to me how it all started.
September is traditionally the time of year when lots of people think of taking up some learning. While it's often associated with children heading back to school, lots of adults are also considering taking up an evening course over the winter, or are about to enter third level as a mature student on a full or part time basis. Last weekend AONTAS hosted an information stand at Which Course, an annual exhibition featuring various course providers. We were there to give out copies of our new Information Booklet. Called 'What Next' the booklet answers a lot of the basic questions that adults ask us - how to find a course, what the qualification means, what kinds of financial supports are available. We also provided copies of the latest course brochure from CD VEC, and promoted a freephone number which they have in place until September 9th. The freephone number 1800 20 40 80 is staffed by qualified Counsellors from the Adult Education Guidance Initiative who are there to help adults
There's been a lot of focus recently on the issue of information, and how difficult it is to find the right person in the right place to give you the right information about education and training opportunities if you're unemployed. So here are eight useful resources if you're planning on taking the education route in the not too distant future.
Every cloud has a silver lining they say. For those engaged in a job search it could be that cloud computing could provide an opportunity. The National College of Ireland is one of the colleges offering a range of accredited learning opportunities in cloud computing at the moment.
Robert Ward, Director of Student Recruitment from NCI explained why the Cloud is so important. 'ICT Ireland has said as many as 75% of ICT companies have vacancies in cloud computing and web development with up to half of companies having more than 20 roles to fill.'
Some important changes have been taking place in how student grants are being administered. In previous years there were four different grant schemes, whereas this year there is only one scheme. The new student grant scheme was launched on June 27th this year. The website Studentfinance is an excellent source of information on grants and finance for all third level students. Here are ten things you need to know if you're applying for a grant.
Apply early: September may seem like a long time away, but the Department of Education and Skills advises all students to apply early to avoid delays in having your grant processed.