Early school leavers urged to return to classroom to survive recession

Ashley Whelan of Galway Youthreach.

Ashley Whelan of Galway Youthreach.

The co-ordinator of an education and training centre for early school leavers in the city is urging young people to view education as the key to surviving the recession.

Ashley Whelan of Galway Youthreach - which offers 15 to 20-year-olds a second chance to gain recognised qualifications and work experience - says seeking and being open to all opportunities is important, also.

Ms Whelan, who holds a number of third level qualifications, including an honours degree, left school early with “a not so good Junior Certificate”, she says.

She lived in the Isle of Man and Manchester initially and quickly realised while working in varying jobs that without additional education she was “going nowhere”.

She did a computer course in the local further education college and then went on to complete a certificate course for teachers in further education.

“I was then encouraged to do a diploma course. However my employer at the time would not agree to give me a day off a week to continue my studies.”

But she was not deterred. Through contacts she had made in the further education college she heard that the Manchester Metropolitan University was starting up an honours degree programme in health studies. She contacted the University, secured an interview and by demonstrating her commitment to her studies and her attainments she secured a place on the programme.

On her return Ms Whelan worked as a teacher for the visually impaired “one of the most humbling experiences of my life”, she says. She went on to do a masters degree in education management as well as a diploma in counselling and psychotherapy.

She hopes her journey to education will encourage others who have left school early to consider returning to the classroom.

She believes self-belief, determination and a can-do attitude will yield results even in these harsh economic times. And nurturing these traits may help stem the tide of emigration, too, she feels.

“Unlike Eddie Hobbs I would not advocate that every young person leave the country and turn the lights off behind them. I understand the benefits of emigration in the 1980s when the educational opportunities that exist now in Ireland did not exist. I also understand that the price of leaving is loss of contacts that can be used to advance ones career. And this is what most emigrants find most difficult and frustrating on their return.

“My advice to young people is ‘ride the recession in education’ if at all possible, seek opportunity, have a committed and positive work ethic and make it happen.”

Galway Youthreach centre offers a number of courses, including art/design, communications, computer literacy, drama, food and cookery, health related fitness, mathematics, sport and woodcraft.

On successful completion, students can apply to undertake Post Leaving Certificate courses at either the Galway Technical Institute or Galway Community College. This qualification is also recognised by FAS as an entry requirement for many apprenticeship programmes.

If you are aged between 16 and 20 years, have left school early and wish to return to education, telephone Ashley Whelan at (091 ) 398809 for further information.


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