Fourteen New Ross youths who have put in a tremendous amount of work while participating on a Waterford Wexford Education Training Board supported training initiative, received their hard earned QQI certificates at a ceremony in the Cornmarket Project premises in New Ross.
Their training - which took place between September 2017 and June 2018 - included subjects such as catering and hospitality skills, horticulture, work experience, internet skills, digital media, career preparation, functional Maths, nutrition, interpersonal skills, woodworking and training in other areas that have equipped the participants to move on into employment.
Paul Delaney of the Cornmarket Project said: 'This is a really important occasion and a joyous occasion as we celebrate the efforts of the learners and participants.'
He said there are 19 participants in the Local Training Initiative (LTI) modules currently, adding that the programme provides a flexible, innovative way to engage with people.
The participants, staff and tutors also showcased the work they do on the LTI to those in attendance on the day, including New Ross Municipal District cathaoirleach Cllr John Fleming and representatives from other local and regional state organisations.
Fran Kennedy from WWETB, who presented the participants with their certificates, spoke about the importance of WWETB support for such initiatives, and the achievements of the young people on the LTI.
She said LTI programmes are designed to provide opportunities for marginalised learners who are unable to participate in other mainstream training interventions for personal, social or geographic reasons.
They are targeted primarily at people under 35 years of age, with no formal qualifications or incomplete secondary level qualifications. LTI's provide vocational training opportunities, learning supports and project-based learning to assist participants to achieve awards on the QQI qualifications scale and to develop the capacity to progress to further training, education and work.
Ms Kennedy said the LTI is a community based organisation which targets learners who come from economic and socially disadvantaged backgrounds who may have fallen out of the formal education system or had a negative experience within it.
'The joy of learning is something that is often lost,' she said, adding that LTI programmes open up a whole new world of learning possibilities.
She said the certificate is a piece of paper that reflects the student's hard work, adding that they now have the tools and skills to continue their education.
Michael Wall, Chairman of Wexford Local Development, who facilitated the LTI programme through the Cornmarket Project, spoke about the importance of reaching out to young people who often find themselves missing out on mainstream training and educational opportunities due to a variety of often complex issues.
He said Wexford Local Development recognise the importance of working in partnership with the WWETB to ensure that young people who need supports such as the LTI programme do not end up slipping through the cracks and that they can get the training supports they need to equip them to enter the workforce or move on to further education.
He praised the staff on the local LTI team and commented that the integrated resource model operated by the Cornmarket Project was a big factor in the success of the programme.
Mr Wall stressed the importance of education in society.
'In Wexford there are serious challenges in education from early school leaving and access to third level,' he said.
Mr Wall said formal education doesn't suit everyone, adding that the 14 students: Rosie O'Donnell, Jack Hearne, Janine Doyle, John Paul Connors, Gemma Kielthy, Rachel O'Donnell, Chloe Nolan, Dylan Murray, Stephen Walsh, Kevin Richardson, Thomas Richardson, Jack Byrne and Cait Duffin have added to the atmosphere in the building through their work.
'You cannot change a young person's past but we can give them the opportunities to change their future through education, training and personal development. For many people's lives there is a constant series of barriers and we want to take them down.'
Elaine Juut-Jenson of the project, said the students were fantastic.
Three of the group have already progressed into employment, with others progressing into further education.
She said: 'It's like a family here. We sit down together and everyone is supportive of one another. It's a therapeutic space here. The change in the people who got their certificates today has been remarkable.'
She said people figure out what they want to do in life through trying the modules.