As we approach Christmas 2023 I would like to extend heartfelt gratitude to the ETB communities across our Schools, Centres and Administrative Offices throughout the county who have contributed in such a meaningful way to the work of Donegal ETB during 2023.
Our three pillars, led by our Directors; Ciaran O’Brien (Further Education and Training (FET)), Andy McGovern, (Organisation Support and Development (OSD)) and Dr Martin Gormley (Schools) do an outstanding job leading staff within their areas. Their work is both varied and complex and I congratulate all three on their considerable achievements during 2023.
2023 began as always with success at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition for a number of our schools.
The memory of the tragedy at Creeslough is never far from our minds but we were honoured and delighted to welcome President Higgins to Mulroy College in February followed by Minister Foley in March. The visits helped our school community enormously as it continues to recover since October 2022.
March brought a national award for our Recognition of Prior Learning Service at the inaugural ETB Awards Day in Croke Park. Another inaugural event took place in March and this was the first AGM of the Retired Staff Association for our organisation. The association is going from strength to strength and was represented by Chairperson Rita Gleeson at the recent Retirement Lunch at Lough Eske Castle Hotel.
A priority for us all is sustainability and climate change and we established our cross organisation Climate, Energy and Sustainability Steering Group this year. Good progress has been made on our plans and an event was held with relevant staff to collectively pool our good ideas.
We had two official openings this year, the Abbey Vocational School, Donegal Town opened a beautiful extension and our FET Centre, Port Road, Letterkenny welcomed Minister Harris in October for the official opening.
Minister Harris has a deep interest in Further Education and Training and he launched a new programme of Tertiary Degrees in July where students complete year 1 in a FET setting before completing their degree at a Higher Education Institution. Donegal ETB, along with Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB and Galway and Roscommon ETB partnered with ATU to offer a Nursing programme for 2024/25 which was a resounding success.
The county was proud to have two winners at the WorldSkills competition in September and Donegal ETB was honoured to host the regional Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony in October.
Memorandums of Understanding were signed with Donegal County Council and resigned with the North West Tertiary Education Cluster Partners (North West Regional College, Ulster University and ATU). These events showcase the depth of collaborative partnership across our organisation and within the region which is a key element of our Strategy Statement 2022-2026.
As I visited our schools and centres throughout the year I was always struck by the passion and commitment of staff for their local area and for the wonderful service they provide. Each and every staff member has their part to play and our service to the communities, including our new communities, of Co Donegal could and would not happen without this dedication to our values of Excellence, Quality, Care, Community and Respect.
Our new Chairperson, Cllr Donal Coyle was recently elected, and I would like to wish him and our new Deputy Chairperson, Cllr Rena Donaghey every best wish as they undertake their new roles. We thank and commend our outgoing Chair and Deputy Chair, Cllr Michael McBride and Mr Patsy McVicar for their excellent work during 2023.
I wish to remember all those who are no longer with us and extend my sincere sympathy to all who have sadly been bereaved during 2023.
I wish everyone well for the year ahead but most of all I wish good health for you and your families and loved ones. Please enjoy a safe and peaceful break over Christmas and the New Year. We look forward with hope to 2024 and the continuation of our work on behalf of the people of Donegal.