"It is that extra door, an opportunity".

The 3rd European Vocational Skills Week takes place from the 5th to 9th November 2018. As National Coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL), AONTAS is profiling VET Week Ambassadors – by sharing FET learner stories throughout the week. The Building Futures programme, run by the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU), is a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) accredited programme in Community Development that aims to provide learners with the knowledge, skills and competence to work effectively in a range of community development work settings. This programme also helps develop skills for working in other settings such as training & education and / or progression into further or higher education. Thomas shares his experience of the programme.

I always wanted to go back to education but I didn’t believe in myself. I left school at 16, the idea of going back to education was daunting and I didn’t think I’d fit in. It was easier to work.  Now I’ve just completed  a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) accredited programmed called ‘Building Futures’ with the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed (INOU) and I’ve been offered a place on a Social Studies degree course in Dublin Business School. Both my son and I are starting our degree this September.

Those first two or three weeks were essential

Before I started in Building Futures I told myself I would give it a chance and see how I got on. Those first two or three weeks were essential. Everyone was so nice. The staff always went out of their way to help me. If I did an assignment and wanted feedback they would get back to me straight away, even in the evenings. I always had help and the support went above and beyond. I feel very lucky that I had such a positive experience and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.

It is that extra door, an opportunity

As part of the course I completed a work placement in Coolmine Therapeutic Centre, Dublin - they support people with addiction. After my degree I want to go on and work full-time in that area or maybe another community setting. It is amazing seeing people that have struggled, marginalised people, pick themselves up and build their confidence. Education is the biggest thing they can have, that anyone can have.  It is that extra door, an opportunity. You start to believe in yourself. I’ve encouraged 3 people I know to apply for courses.

Fear is part of change. Take risks, believe in yourself.

If you think that an adult education course will be like going back to school, it’s not. It’s 100% different. The support I got really helped, they believed in me. I know if I’m uncomfortable I’ll sabotage myself but I started to believe that maybe I do deserve this.  If you’re fearful, feel the fear. As soon as you put your mind to it, that fear will go away.

You are good enough, keep doing it. The journey is going to get bigger and everything is going to work out. Fear is part of change. Take risks, believe in yourself.

Education helped me with my self-worth and that has a positive impact on every aspect of my life.

We hope that sharing Thomas's positive experience in further education and training will encourage others to explore their own learning options.

For more information on your education and training options visit or contact AONTAS on our Freephone Helpline on 1800 303 669. 


If you have an inspiring learner story that you would like to share you can contact Leah Dowdall, Learner Advocacy Officer by email:, call 01 406 8220 or you can fill out our short learner story survey here: