Leading social inclusion expert, Associate Professor Ted Fleming of Columbia University was the keynote speaker at Donegal ETB’s annual professional development seminar for its Further Education and Training (FET) Service staff on Friday last.
Over 200 FET staff were welcomed to the annual seminar by Donegal ETB Chief Executive Anne McHugh. The seminar was then opened by Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh who told them, “you are enabling a culture of growth [that is] all about equality, all about inclusion, all about respect and dignity. It’s never too late to do something new.”
Cróna Gallagher, Director of FET, Donegal ETB, in providing an overview of Donegal ETB’s FET Service stated, “We are over a year into our Strategic Performance Agreement with SOLAS and a lot of progress has been made in developing an integrated FET service. SOLAS has also begun working with stakeholders, including ETBs, on the development of a new FET Strategy and in this context we have decided to focus particularly on the theme of inclusion today, to ensure that Donegal ETB’s FET service continues to meet the needs of everyone (individuals and groups) in our community.”
FET staff heard from learners who had participated in ETB FET courses, including adaptive adventurer and adult learner Nikki Bradley. The diagnosis of a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma at a young age changed Nikki’s life direction. She told staff how, having missed out on the opportunity to complete her Leaving Certificate due to her illness, one of Donegal ETB’s FET Service adult guidance counsellors told her “there are options for people like you” and that support like this meant that “with all of these setbacks, the one thing I always remember is I got through it.”
Former student Derek Long recalled how he never really wanted to go to school as farming was more interesting but the pen became his challenge, while student Ed Curran, who left school at 14 and is now completing a software development course said, “I would just encourage anybody who wants to so any course to contact the ETB.”
Recently appointed SOLAS Chief Executive Andrew Brownlee spoke about implementation reforms to support a more integrated FET system, while SOLAS Director of Active Inclusion, Roisin Doherty, highlighted the focus on increasing participation rates for priority cohorts with low levels of participation in FET, including people under 25 and over 55, persons with a disability, and women.
Professor Fleming, who is currently Adjunct Associate Professor of Adult Education at the Department of Organization and Leadership in Teachers College, Columbia University in New York, was previously a Senior Lecturer in Adult and Community Education, Head of Department and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Maynooth University. He spoke to staff about the challenges and possibilities of working with adults, telling them that, “in the context of lifelong learning and a national jobs strategy it might be a really worthwhile goal to include broader social learning goals. As a result a competitive economy may be a healthy, fulfilling and equal society.”
Donegal ETB is the largest provider of Further Education and Training (FET) in Co. Donegal, with over 11,000 learners completing courses in more than 120 venues in 2018, leading to certification at levels 1-6 on the National Framework of Qualifications, as well as a wide range of industry and vendor certificates.
Further updates on Friday’s event can be found on Donegal ETB’s Twitter account (@DonegalETB).
Photography credit: Clive Wasson Photography.