"I have gained qualifications but also important life skills"

In 2011 John Connell was unexpectedly made redundant and was faced with some big life decisions on what his next move should be. He needed a change and decided to visit his local community services, the Ballyfermot and Chapelizod Partnership. The Partnership gave John the encouragement and confidence to return to education which allowed him to gain qualifications and a broad range of skills.

“The expectation from parents and other family members was to go out and get a job”

My experience of education first time around was not positive. Despite this, I did ok in my studies and I received good grades in my Leaving Certificate in 1993. At that time, there were few people progressing to further education and the expectation from parents and other family members was to ‘go out and get a job’ so that’s what I did. I entered the world of work straight from school and continued to work for the same company until I was made redundant in November 2011. 

The company I worked for provided no advice on what options might be available and this was extremely difficult. I had been working there since before I even left school and I had no idea what to do next. I decided I needed a change so I visited my local Community Partnership.

“I can honestly say it has been the best decision I have made so far”

I visited the Ballyfermot and Chapelizod Partnership (Obair) to get some information on suitable options. I received useful advice from the wonderful staff there and I was given the encouragement I needed to return to education. I can honestly say it has been the best decision I have made so far. I started with a one year Return to Learning (RTL) course which was challenging but it gave me a taste for learning and I was eager to progress. I completed my RTL course and moved to a QQI Level 5 course in social care, before progressing to a Higher Diploma in applied social studies/social & community care. Despite it being a tough course and suffering a heart attack during my studies, I managed to pass with flying colours in May 2016. I am hopeful that I will find work in this area soon.

“When I returned to education I could not even type or send an email”

To anyone thinking of returning to education, all I can say is go for it. When I began my journey back to learning I couldn’t even type or send an email but after receiving great encouragement, my eyes have been opened. I have gained great qualifications but also acquired important life skills such as sticking to deadlines, broadening my mind and way of thinking and developing friendships. It’s been a great experience with many benefits. Age is no barrier, just believe in yourself, listen to advice and most importantly don’t be afraid of change.

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: