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Alan Hand – One Year On

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In 2016, Alan Hand made the big decision to return to education and complete his Leaving Certificate after becoming unemployed in 2013 due to the recession. Alan completed his Leaving Cert through the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) run by Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board (LOETB) in summer 2016. Since then he has become a strong advocate for adult learning. One year on we talked to Alan about why he made the decision to return to education, how his life has changed and what advice he would give to others thinking of doing the same.

Why did you decide to return to education and sit the Leaving Certificate in 2016?

At the age of thirty seven I found myself unemployed due to the downturn in the economy. To prepare myself for future employment opportunities I knew I needed to upskill and get a qualification. I decided to visit my local Education and Training Board (ETB) in Abbeyleix, County Laois to find out about my options.

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Why did you decide to do Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS)?

I signed up to the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) as it was user friendly and allowed me to receive my job seekers payment whilst doing a full time course. It gave me somewhere to go every day, plus it allowed me some time to consider my next move, whether that be third level, employment or further learning.

One year on, how has completing the Leaving Cert changed your life?

Returning to education is empowering and it has given me the confidence to get back into employment. A year on I have secured a job in the civil service and I am feeling positive about the future. I have also been given great opportunities by AONTAS to share my learner experience. I have taken part in a number of high profile media interviews and represented learners at the European Commission’s Adult Skills Conference in Brussels during the European Vocational Skills Week. I think it’s important that adult learners have a voice at local, national and European level.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about returning to education?

I would say to anyone thinking of returning to education do it sooner rather than later - it’s the best decision you’ll ever make. It’s important to find an option that suits you and that fits in with your other commitments (including family). It’s also important to avail of any supports that might be on offer, including guidance or childcare. It can make all the difference in helping you complete a course.

What are your plans for the future?

Returning to education has allowed me to secure employment, most importantly good quality employment. I now have job security which is a great feeling. I look forward to embracing new opportunities and experiences in the future. 

For more information on your education and training options visit: www.onestepup.ie or Freephone 1800 303 669.