JP on starting again -- at 40
I left college in the early 1990s with a degree in electronics and I went into manufacturing. I worked for 13 years in a local factory that made smoke detectors and that was going along nicely until around 2005, when it went the way of a lot of other manufacturing businesses.
The manufacturing was outsourced on a phased basis to countries with a cheaper manufacturing cost base.
When my job went, the Celtic Tiger still seemed to be going strong. I got another job within a few months with an automotive company before moving to another firm. Unfortunately, that firm downsized due to the economic downturn and at the start of 2009 I found myself out of work.
Emigration was never a realistic option for me. I was married with a young family and it just wasn't on.
There wasn't much job activity in the electronics sector, but a friend suggested that there were new opportunities opening in the pharmaceutical and medical device areas. In fact, it seemed that they were and continue to be one of the few growth areas in the country.
So I signed up in 2009 with Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) for a mainstream course as part of their (LMA) Labour Market Activation programme. I did a course in GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice), relating to both EU and US medical device manufacturing standards. The qualification is valid for both the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. I also took a module in validation, which is very relevant to the life sciences.
The course helped me bridge the gap between where I was and where I needed to be, and it opened the door to get into the medical devices field. I started out with Tornier Orthopedics in Macroom in January 2010, filling in for someone on maternity leave and when Mary came back I was kept on as a quality engineer.
The company here in Macroom makes hip, shoulder and elbow implants. The implants are manufactured from barstock, castings and forgings. They are then machined, buffed, sanded and finished. We're building a replacement world-class (ISO7) clean room here at the moment, where we will package the implants into sealed sachets or blister packs. It goes on from here to be sterilised by gamma radiation and then it's ready for implant into the patient.
I've managed to stay living in Killarney, which is great for the family. The commute to Macroom is about 45 minutes, which is grand, and Tornier Orthopedics is a nice place to work, with long-term stability.
Things are looking very positive at the moment. The company is investing in the plant, and new products are being introduced, with several new employees taken on recently.
Many of my fellow employees in Tornier are currently taking evening courses in CIT, in GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) and Advanced Manufacturing, to name but a few.
I'd like to thank two of my lecturers at CIT, Ann Toebes and Sandra Lenihan. Both were excellent lecturers, with a genuine interest in their subject matter and students, and they ensured that the course information was totally relevant to the work environment I entered afterwards. College courses can sometimes be overtly academic, but that certainly isn't the case at CIT, where I found the modules very relevant to present day manufacturing requirements and students leaving there are well equipped to enter the jobs market.
With many people currently re-entering education, the wide cross-section of day and evening courses available at CIT allows people the opportunity to up-skill and branch into different lines of work.
CIT has lots of courses under the new Springboard programme.