independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

National Learning Network answers education and training need

INNOVATIVE programmes being run by the National Learning Network in Sligo are helping people with disabilities and those with mental health issues to gain national and international qualifications and the experience that they need to enter the workforce and secure full-time or part- time employment and/or progress onto further training and education.

"Our programmes vary depending on the students needs at any given time," explains Sharon Thornton, manager of the National Learning Network centre on Bridge Street in Sligo. "Courses are run not only in the centre, but also in the community, in a student's home and within an employer's premises. Class sizes are kept small so that students receive individual attention. Students are encouraged to work at their own pace with support from experienced instructors. We can also adapt much of our equipment to meet the needs of people with disabilities." "Our multidisciplinary team of staff include instructors, resource teachers and psychologists have a range of skills and expertise in the training and rehabilitative fields. Our person-centered approach to training is at the heart of everything that we do. Each student has an Individual Action Plan which means that they plan how to do their chosen course at a pace that suits them within an agreed timeframe. Our instructors play a key role in guiding the students through the course, creating an environment where our students learn new skills and build on their existing skills. Over 90 per cent of people who complete our courses have progressed to employment or further training and this is thanks to the supportive partnership we have with FÁS, HSE West and local businesses."

Students must be aged over 16 years: no fees apply for the courses and all course materials are provided. All courses offer literacy and numeracy supports on a needs basis. National Learning Network is the training and employment division of the Rehab Group and Ireland's largest nonGovernment training organisation with over 50 centres nationwide. Each year the organisation delivers a wide range of tailored courses that are responsive to labour market requirements and assist people at a disadvantage in the labour market to develop the skills and confidence they need to build lasting careers in jobs that reflect their interests and abilities, progress to further education, increase independence and to become more active members of their community.

National Learning Network in Sligo offers a number of centre-based programmes from its modern premises on Bridge Street. These include the Office Skills and Computer Applications course, which is both FETAC and ECDL accredited. The programme provides students with the necessary skills to access employment in busy, modern office environments or to progress to higher training.

The Employer-Based Training programme has helped many people from the Sligo region, some of whom have never worked before, to find employment with businesses in their local area. Practical training in the workplace is a key element of the course along with modules such as computer skills, and health and safety. This on-the-job training is essential when looking for employment job after the course. National Learning Network works with both the students and local employers who are extremely supportive to ensure a successful placement.

For some students who are unable to access the centre in Sligo town every day , the option to study at home opens up a whole new world of possibilities. The Information Technology and Business Studies is one such course which enables students to gain a FETAC Level 5 certificate in computer applications from the comfort of their own home. Students are linked by modem to the centre where online tutorials are provided. All the IT equipment is supplied on loan to the students. Students can take the course in the centre.

Often students are unsure of what direction they would like to take and so National Learning Network provides exploratory courses such as Jobstart and the Transition programmes.

A key element of these programmes is the work experience with local employers as it gives students the opportunity to put all that they have learned into practice.

The Access and Turas programmes are specifically designed to equip students with foundation level personal, social and workrelated skills that enable them to gain greater independence and to participate more in their local communities. The courses include modules on health and safety, leisure activities, independent living, creative skills, literacy and numeracy, as well as an introduction to computers.

If you are interested in applying for a place on any of the courses offered by National Learning Network contact Sharon Thornton, National Learning Network, Bridge Street, Sligo. Telephone (071) 9145391 or email sligo@nln.ie

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