AONTAS Membership Engagement: A Vital Link for the Community

25 Nov 2016
Jim Prior is Coordinator of Southill Family Resource Centre, a member of the Limerick Community Education Network (LCEN) and Vice President of AONTAS. The LCEN represents over 19 community education based organisations across Limerick city and they have been members of AONTAS for over 12 years. Here Jim shares how the LCEN has engaged with the work of AONTAS over this time.

“AONTAS membership has given us the opportunity to contribute our grassroots perspective and influence the national agenda for adult and community education at a top level.”

AONTAS membership has been a hugely positive experience for the LCEN. We are part of the Community Education Network (CEN), a dedicated group for independent community education providers, coordinated by AONTAS. Being part of the CEN gives us an opportunity to lobby on key issues impacting our work such as quality assurance and funding issues.

A representative for the LCEN was part of the Joint Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) Community and Voluntary Sector Working Group, this link provided us with a platform to engage with some of the key legislators on issues impacting our local community services.

Information Sharing and Networking Events
“The information sharing and networking opportunities available through AONTAS allows us to keep our community informed and develop new ways of advancing education locally.”

AONTAS events are a great place to meet other adult and community education providers from across the country. The information the LCEN has gained from AONTAS networking events has helped inform our work and given us ideas on different approaches to course delivery and learning. This positively impacts our organisation, our community and our learners.

Being part of AONTAS has given us the opportunity to learn about innovative models of best practice. An example being An Cosán’s Virtual Community College (VCC). I heard about this initiative through AONTAS President and VCC Director, Liz Waters and then invited her down to present this work to the LCEN. The presentation created great interest within the group and two organisations are now looking to deliver some courses with the VCC locally, which is fantastic.

AONTAS Executive Board
“Being a member of the AONTAS Executive allows me to bring local issues to AONTAS and help raise awareness and improve the learning experience for those within my community.”

As part of my role as Vice President I promote the work that AONTAS does for members and learners. This includes useful resources such as the AONTAS website and OneStepUp ( It also gives me an opportunity to highlight any issues with local education and training services at a national level.

“Through various projects and mobilities supported by AONTAS, the LCEN has been given the opportunity to travel to a number of European countries which has greatly enhanced our work.”

In 2013, members of Southill FRC participated in the VITA Project. VITA (Validation of personal and social competences relevant in the service economy) was a European project which explored the competencies of soft skills. As part of this project we delivered an Irish pilot project focussed on personal development, which is still running today and has made a massive impact to those involved.

We are also part of a KA1 ERASMUS+ project: Making an Impact at European level which is managed by AONTAS on behalf of a consortium of 7 CEN members. The aim of this project is to support those who work in the area of adult education and enhance the work of the CEN by offering learning exchanges with other adult learning practitioners across Europe for professional development. I think it’s important for staff within an organisation to use these opportunities, gain invaluable experience and bring back information to our organisation. The more community organisations that can access and learn from Europe the better it is for the local community.

I am passionate about education, I believe it is a powerful and effective way of changing people’s lives. As members of AONTAS we can help and support others to access education for themselves.

The AONTAS General Meeting will provide members with an opportunity to explore ideas for us to further develop our membership engagement. We want to hear your suggestions about how you can be more involved in the work of AONTAS. The meeting will be held on the 9th December 2016 in The Gresham Hotel, Dublin at 10am. Any members who have not registered already can do so here.