Learner Voice at the Centre of European Vocational Skills Week

20 Dec 2016
The first European Vocational Skills Week took place from 5th to 9th December 2016. As the National Coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL), AONTAS welcomed the introduction of this initiative. It provided an opportunity to profile the diversity of education and training opportunities available to learners across the EU with hundreds of events taking place. It also provided AONTAS with an opportunity to highlight the importance of the learner voice at both a national and European level.

As part of the week, AONTAS attended a two-day conference in Brussels “Adult Skills: Empowering People”, with over 250 participants attending from across the EU and hosted the launch of ‘I’m an Adult Learner 2016’ on 9th December in Dublin. 

Adult Skills: Empowering People

AONTAS travelled with two learners to Brussels for the Adult Skills: Empowering People (6th – 7thDecember). The conference hosted almost 300 attendees from across 32 countries, with expert plenary panels and diverse parallel sessions.

Panellists Una Buckley and Alan Hand, adult learners, shared their insights, experiences and recommendations with attendees. Their stories inspired many in the room, with the importance of keeping the learner voice to the core of all activities cited in discussions throughout the conference.

Speaking after the event, Alan hand said "The Adult Skills Conference in Brussels was an amazing experience for me, being able to highlight the issues of adult learners at a European level was a totally new experience. There was a notable concerted effort from all the Member States to put adult education to the forefront."

Examples of national practice were profiled by Liz Waters, Director, An Cosan, VCC and Tara Farrell, Deputy CEO, Longford Women’s Link. Both speakers demonstrated how the learner formed the core of their work, with supports to assist learners (ie childcare, counselling, domestic violence services) and progression paths allowing learners achieve their potential.

Launch of ‘I’m an Adult Learner 2016’

AONTAS launched a book celebrating the diverse paths taken by adult learners in Ireland on 9th December. The aim of the book is to highlight a wide variety of learner experiences whilst also demonstrating the role of adult learning in transforming peoples’ lives. The book documents inspiring learner stories which AONTAS has shared every Monday in 2016 to coincide with #MondayMotivation. In August 2016 we also ran an information campaign entitled #ImAnAdultLearner.

The book, entitled ‘I’m an Adult Learner 2016’, features the personal stories and portraits of 25 adult learners. Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD officially launched the publication and met with adult learners who contributed their stories to the book.

‘I’m an Adult Learner 2016’ is available to download here. If you’d like to receive a copy of the book, please email Katie O’ Rourke, Communications Officer,

AONTAS was proud to represent the work of our membership at EU level, profiling promising practice and engaging with EU counterparts. We will continue to ensure the experiences of learners and practitioners in Ireland are heard at EU level in 2017.