What further education has done for me

From healthcare and information technology to experimental archaeology, four people sum up what they’ve gained

Looking forward to getting back to work

John Doyle

52, Portarlington, Co Laois

Growing up, my experiences of education were mostly negative. I struggled to keep up and teachers didn’t have the time to give me the extra support I needed. Learning support teachers didn’t exist. If you couldn’t keep up, you simply fell behind. I was bullied for years and by the time I was old enough to realise what had happened to me, the damage was done.

I'm the eldest of eight children, so I had to go out and find a job; college wasn't really an option. For over 30 years, I worked in the retail sector for high-end companies, both in Ireland and the Unites States. I'd battled with depression over the years, but I became good at managing it because I knew the signs to look out for. But, after my mother died, everything just became too much for me and I had to leave my job. I was very lucky to have a supportive partner, but being out of work is a big financial strain.


Being unemployed has been a strain on me and on my partner, who has supported me. I wanted a career change but knew I needed to reskill and to rebuild my confidence. I heard about the back to education allowance and decided to apply for it so that I could go on to a further education and training course. I did a certificate in general studies and did really well: five distinctions and three merits

So I’m going back to education again. I’ve just started a course in healthcare, because that’s where the jobs are. I’m looking forward to getting back into the workforce.


importance of mentors Sharon Conlon


It was 2009, and there were no jobs. Rejection chips away at your self-esteem. I knew I had to act, so I called into Pauline McGaley at the Warrenmount community education centre in north Dublin.

What did I want to do? We spoke for a while and she was so encouraging. I knew that I had always been interesting in working with children, so I enrolled on three Fetac (now QQI) level five childcare modules and another module called “story sacks” where you use props to create stories with children.

I kept going and soon realised that, yes, I could do this – and I could go further. I decided to take more modules so I could achieve a full level five qualification and a level six qualification in childcare.

I went to the Liberties College of Further Education and spent two years studying childcare there; I had a brilliant mentor in Eileen McPartland and I still go back to the college to see her.

I went on to the degree programme at the Dublin Institute of Technology, starting in second year. I was a bit nervous of being the newcomer but, again, my tutors and lecturers there were so supportive and welcoming. And I knew I was able to go back to both Warrenmount and the Liberties CFE any time for a chat, which I did. I graduated with first-class honours.

My appetite for education has been really and truly whetted. I’ve achieved so many of my goals; now, I want to study on the master’s programme to become an adult educator so I can help others achieve theirs.

Further education can lead to very good jobs

Robert Kukurs

37, moved to Ireland 14 years ago

When I left Latvia, the plan was to make some money and go home after six months. I ended up settling here.

I have a bachelor’s degree in social science with a major in marketing from university in Latvia, but when I came here, my English wasn’t as good, so I worked in a warehouse. From there, I moved to technical support for a year, though I didn’t get certified.

With the help of the local unemployment office, Intreo, I found an ETB course in Loughlinstown in computer maintenance and networking.

Much credit to our trainer: he worked so hard to build the right connections with industry and ensure we all got a good work placement. Mine was in Dell and it went so well that, two months ago, they hired me. I’m really enjoying working here.

In this field certification is a must and, luckily, Dell offer great opportunities for workplace learning; you can go on to a course and they will support and pay for you.

Learning for learning’s sake

Joseph Davis

44, originally from Seattle, moved to Ireland three years ago I was at a dinner party and struck up a conversation. "If you could do anything at all, what would be it be?" the woman asked me.

“I would go back to school and do a master’s in experimental archaeology with an emphasis on textiles,” I replied.

She looked a bit stunned. “Did you know there is an experimental archaeology course with an emphasis on textiles in UCD?” she said.

On this course, we recreate the technologies used in the past. Today, we talked about how neolithic pottery was made and then we made some. We talked about and looked at moulds for pouring bronze ornaments. I’ve such respect for the skills these people had.

For me, experimental archaeology combines the best of scientific rigour with creative and analytical aspects.

It touches off biology and history, but it’s also useful for many professions: one person on this course analyses proteins from plant and animal remains in the day job.

I didn’t do this with career in mind as such.

If you’re not entirely satisfied with your job, a course like this where you learn to do something very different can reinvigorate.

It keeps the spirits up.