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‘You’re going nowhere these days unless you have a piece of paper’

Case study: A post-Leaving Cert course helped John Dee back into workforce

John Dee, a fabrication technician from Listowel, Co Kerry. He secured a job after completing a post-Leaving Cert course earlier this year.

During his summer holidays from school, 14-year-old John Dee went working on farms in the Listowel area.

“I never returned to school – I had no interest,” he says. “I enjoyed working on the farms and later in construction. All kinds of work. I never went a day without work until 2008. Then, everything went wallop.”

Last year, more than two decades after he left school, Dee was back in the classroom of his old school.

It is now known as the North Kerry College of Further Education and he was about to start a post-Leaving Cert course in engineering.

“I was fairly nervous about going back. The idea of getting your head back into the books at 37 years of age was a bit daunting . . . but I realised that you’re going nowhere unless you have a piece of paper.”

It was a struggle, says Dee, a father-of-one, but it was worth it.

The course cost about €300, while his qualification for the back to education allowance meant he was entitled to a means-tested payment of about €127 a week. The family scraped by.

“I got there in the end,” he says. “It was a great sense of achievement . I learned about computer-aided design, as well as maths, engineering, building construction . . . I wasn’t sure how I would do, but I got a distinction in every subject.”

Confidence and self-esteem

Along with boosting his knowledge and skills, the course also enhanced his confidence and self-esteem.

He completed the course last May and walked into a job with O’Carroll Engineering a day later.

Now he works as a fabrication technician and uses his new skills on a daily basis to help manufacture steel components for cranes.

“I’m delighted. I think they could see from my CV that I’d done a PLC course and was willing to learn and had a good attitude. I wasn’t sitting there, waiting for something to happen.”

While a report from the Department of Public Expenditure has raised concern over the way money in being allocated to the further education sector, Dee feels it is well-targeted from what he can see.

He says he owes a debt of gratitude to staff at North Kerry College – “especially Stephen Goulding and Pat O’Sullivan” – and adds the course was transformative. “Even if you don’t find a job immediately, it gets you out of the house, you meet people, you stimulate your mind. It’s good for your wellbeing and mental health.”

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