GRETB Training Centre marks its 50th anniversary in 2019. It has been at the heart of training apprentices and trainees in the west of Ireland since 1969.
The centre in Mervue, Galway, was officially opened on November 10, 1969 by Joe Brennan, then minister for labour, as the AnCO (An Chomhairle Oiliúna ) Training Centre Galway. It opened with 28 staff.
The AnCO Training Centre provided people in the west of Ireland with new opportunities, such as apprenticeships, specific work skills, and career change prospects.
AnCO courses were between 15 and 26 weeks and were designed to meet industry needs, with many trainees going to employment after completing training. In the first 10 years of operations the centre trained 7,000 people — trainees and apprentices.
In 1988, AnCO amalgamated with National Manpower Services and the Youth Employment Agency to become FÁS (An Foras Áiseanna Saothair ). The centre became the FÁS Training Centre.
The 1980s were a tough time economically for Ireland with high unemployment and mass emigration. In 1985 unemployment was over 17 per cent, however this was offset by mass emigration, mainly to the UK and the USA.
For people who remained in Ireland, struggling to find employment, the FÁS Training Centre played a pivotal role offering upskilling and reskilling. New programmes and apprenticeships were developed to match the changing nature of the economy, industry, and business in Galway and the region.
FÁS was very much involved with the local community over the years and contributed regularly to the Tops of the Town variety and talent shows where community groups and businesses competed in local and national finals. The training centre also provided the expertise in projects like the Waterwheel at Mill St and the Quincentennial time capsule buried in Salthill.
Apprentices received training to the highest level and were encouraged to enter National Skills competitions, which showcase trades in a competitive setting. Over the years, apprentices from the training centre have been successful at national, European, and World levels, culminating with two apprentices winning World Skills gold medals.
The training centre is very aware of the changing needs of employers. In 2013 it opened Ireland's first dedicated cleanroom operator training facility, to provide trained operators and product builders for the medical companies in Galway and the west.
In 2014 FÁS and the Vocational Education Committees (VECs ) amalgamated and the centre became the GRETB (Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board ) Training Centre.
Current manager of the training centre Ken Farragher believes the centre has been a huge asset to the people of the west. It has provided training locally for tradesmen and women, and it has also provided upskilling courses for unemployed people, to allow them return to the workforce.
“The flexibility and customer focus of the staff of the GRETB Training Centre has allowed the training centre move to new methods of training such as online training or training in the workplace for those in employment,” explained Mr Farragher.
“GRETB can respond rapidly to the needs of the economy by offering upskilling to those in the workplace at their place of work, opening our centre at weekends and evening, or training online, while we now offer apprenticeships in auctioneering, manufacturing, accounting, logistics, etc, so there are plenty of training options for those in employment, unemployed, or people seeking a new career.”
Since 2016, new apprenticeships in areas such as finance, manufacturing technology, logistics, and hospitality have been developed and rolled out; these are in addition to traditional craft apprenticeships in areas such as construction, electrical, and motor.
Fifty years later, GRETB Training Centre continues to provide a diverse range of training delivery options including full time day, evening, Saturday, and blended learning opportunities.