A warm glow as industry and academia unite


WITH OVER 2,200 people on its payroll, Bord na Mona is a major employer with significant training needs. But finding courses appropriate to its needs at locations which suit its geographically dispersed workforce is not always easy.

One solution to this dual problem has been to organise an in-house outreach programme for 30 employees who are studying for a diploma in management studies from Athlone RTC.

The course started last September and it runs over two years on two nights a week. Lecturers from the college travel to the students rather than the other way round and according to Pat McGarty, who heads the department of business and social studies at Athlone RTC "this will be an important new direction for third-level colleges in the years ahead where we go out into the market and train industry rather than concentrating on school leavers alone.

"This is not our first contact with Bord na Mona. Our relationship with the peat energy division in particular goes back many years to the apprenticeship scheme and we have also run a certified diploma in accounting and finance with them.

The Bord has always had a progressive human resources policy and when they came to us looking for a suitable course we were able to match their needs with our new diploma," McGarty says.

"Bord na Mona is very committed to staff development and we have an education support scheme whereby if people are prepared to give of their time and energy to a work-related course, we will pay their fees," says Kevin Gavin, group head of human resources at Bord na Mona.

"But we also thought it would be a good idea to look at offering a course with a strong business focus which also provided a professional qualification. We have a large number of people working in Bord na Mona who joined the company from school and have since gained a tremendous amount of practical experience but many have not had formal management training. So we felt that they would benefit from an up-skilling course and the diploma was ideal in that it covers the whole range of business disciplines from management and law to marketing and sales management, enterprise development and financial and cost accounting."

Having firmed up the logistics, Kevin Gavin then approached a number of companies operating around Bord na Mona and invited them to participate in the course. "The idea was to broaden the student mix and to give people the opportunity to get a different perspective on things," he says.

"We got a very positive response from the companies we spoke to and people from Tegral, Telmacanique and the ESB have joined the course.

One of those is Paddy Kelly, assistant sales manager with Tegral who has been working in sales since he left school. "I felt the course would give me an insight into the different aspects that make up a business because my focus has always been on sales," he says.

am getting to know about areas in which I would never have been involved before and there is a great inter-flow of information between the people on the course with a healthy turnover of views and opinions which is very enjoyable," he says.

Twice a week Seamus O'Gorman the administration manager at Bord na Mona's Oweninny operation near Ballina, Co Mayo, sets out on a 250-mile round trip to, take part ink the course at the Boora works in Offaly. Now 36 years with the company, he says he is doing the course partly to encourage younger people within the company to improve their skills.

"I have been on in-house training courses over the years but this is my, first time on an outside professional course and I'm finding it very interesting and informative," he says. "It is pretty hard to settle down to the studying after so many years out of the system and I'm not too enthusiastic about the exams. But overall I'm pleased with my decision to go on the course and I'm enjoying it a lot."

From September 1996, the diploma will also be offered on a one-year, full-time basis by Athlone RTC and this particular course will be aimed at young graduates from engineering and the sciences who have no business skills.

"Irish industry badly needs people who are qualified in business as well as their specific disciplines," Pat McGarty says.

"Business management is usually the poor relation subject which fades into the background and this course is designed to give graduates a solid grounding in management and business theory before they go out into the workplace."