10.11.2017

Helping people out of the “low skills trap”

EAEA GRUNDTVIG AWARD 2017. The Active Employability Skills Programme implemented in Ireland engages new learners and raises awareness for the importance of adult education by helping people out of the “low skills trap”.

As more and more learners were being referred to the Centre by the local Department of Social Protection and local employment services, the staff realized there was no clear definition of what this referral was supposed to achieve and thus developed a pilot programme that would improve the participants’ employment opportunities. The pilot version of the programme was so successful that it was run again in 2016 and 2017.

“The programme aims to provide adult learners with the skills necessary to improve their employment opportunities. The content is  practical and helps learners to improve their reading, writing, numeracy and computer skills, alongside developing listening awareness and speaking confidently,” says Mary Concannon.

The AES programme also offers participants the opportunity to achieve Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) minor awards if they wish. To help learners study at their own pace, the programme includes an introduction to Writeon.ie, an interactive website run by NALA.

Overcoming barriers

“There is a certain fatigue and resentment among the learners and often they do not want to participate in yet another course. Many of the learners struggle with understanding or knowing why they have been referred to the programme in the first place,” Mary Concannon explains.

A number of key principles have been developed to make sure that the programme remains learner-centred. For example, the learners are asked to keep a Learning Journal to record their experiences. The tutor is also encouraged to keep the sessions flexible to make sure that all learners are able to participate actively. The evaluation methods are also flexible and depend on the group, their skills and their engagement throughout the programme.

While every group is different, what they all have in common is the distinct improvement in the learners’ overall communication skills and social skills. Often starting the course discouraged and without a clear idea of their goals, thanks to a session on career guidance they are able to better understand how learning can help them progress in their personal and professional lives.

“The social dynamics in the group grew. There is a distinct improvement in the learners’ overall communication skills and social skills.”

The project: Active Employability Skills Programme AES

  • Award category: National projects (Ireland)
  • Learner target group: People in the “low skills trap”
  • Innovative practice: Using learner stories and social media for advocacy

Project coordinator

  • Organisation: Killarney Adult Literacy and Basic Education Centre (Kerry Education and Training Board)
  • Contact: Mary Concannon / maryconcannon15(a)gmail.com

Resources

The article series shares good practices on engaging new learners by introducing the nominees of the EAEA Grundtvig Award 2017.

Text: EAEAPhotos: AES project

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