14 May 2019

One Step Up: A Model for Increasing Lifelong Learning Participation in Europe

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As the National Coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL) AONTAS provides a free Information Referral Service, One Step Up (OSU). Since its establishment in 2013 it has supported tens of thousands of people in Ireland to find out about their education and training options. AONTAS CEO Niamh O'Reilly recently shared insight into the One Step Up service at a conference in Croatia. In our latest blog she reflects on how OSU can be used as a model for other countries to replicate for increasing lifelong learning participation across Europe.

I was delighted to share our experience of the Information Referral Service at a plenary session of the 7th International Andragogical Symposium in Croatia on 8th May. Although a term not often used in Ireland, ‘andragogy’ (method and practice of teaching adults) is a common term used in the Balkan region. Almost 200 participants from seven countries in the region attended the annual gathering.

AONTAS manages the One Step Up Information Referral Service as part of an ERASMUS+ KA3 funded project which supports the European Agenda for Adult Learning and the Upskilling Pathways Recommendation focusing on ‘supply and uptake’ - specifically aimed at people with less than Leaving Certificate level (NFQ level 4/5). The service includes:

One Step Up has continued to evolve since its launch in 2013 and we are currently in the process of redeveloping the website to make it even more user-friendly. Developments for the new website are a direct result of consulting with adult learners and stakeholders about how the service might improve and become more efficient in helping people to discover learning options that unlock their potential. As one learner so eloquently put it recently: “learning has been like a key that has opened a door.”

The learning shared:

Creating ‘Word of Mouth’ Opportunities

A wide range of education organisations promote their information events and open days for free via the One Step Up Calendar. In 2018 almost 600 events across Ireland were submitted by higher education institutions, Education and Training Boards (ETBs), community education organisations and libraries. Informing learners about local and national free events is a vital mechanism for encouraging people who may be nervous about going back to education. It allows them to explore their options, meet with educators and peers and ask questions in person, helping them to gain the confidence needed to take that next step back to learning.


Explaining the Lifelong Learning System in Ireland

The complexity of the lifelong learning system can be a barrier for many learners.. As noted in the recent review of career guidance tools, the multiplicity of websites ‘highlights the need for advice on how to best utilise and navigate the range of online information sources’; with almost 4 out of 5 (78.3%) Guidance Counsellors considering online career guidance tools, including One Step Up, helpful for making informed decisions about education and career pathways. One Step Up is a one stop shop information source that covers how to:

 “…There is a huge amount of information available which can be very confusing as an adult a result of this website the chances of making more suitable and realistic education choices will be higher…” (Adult Learner who used the One Step Up Information Referral Service)

Promoting One Step Up

Responsibility to Prospective Learners

Making a Difference

Communicating Europe

Finally, our experience of sharing learner stories was also discussed at the 7th International Andragogical Symposium, and a day later - on Europe Day (9th May) - we were delighted to be awarded Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Communicating Europe Funding where our new project: You and the EU – Adult Learners in Ireland will allow us to share the impact of EU engagement for adult learners through a new series of podcasts.

Stay tuned for our new website, share the Information Booklet, promote your open days and events on the One Step Up Calendar and give us your feedback on how we can better communicate lifelong learning opportunities in Ireland. As a collective we can help people find the key to the door.

“I realised that I had more potential than I actually knew.” – adult learner, Career Paths for Dyslexia 

For More Information:

Visit or contact Sam O’Brien-Olinger, Information and Policy Officer via email: