Tuesday, 28 March, 2017

I realised my qualifications were not recognised here

Posted on November 21, 2016 at 03:08 PM

Colette picAfter building a successful career on a secretarial course at the Senior Cycle College in Ballyfermot, and further professional and workplace training in Switzerland, Colette Flynn returned home to Ireland but soon realised her workplace training and qualifications and experience were not recognised. She decided to return to education in order to gain the recognition she deserved. She entered the ALBA programme – Bachelor of Arts for Personal and Professional Development for Adult Learners. The programme was learner centred, recognised prior learning and allowed participants to have a choice in their own learning. Due to the closure of All Hallows College, the ALBA programme’s last students will graduate in 2017. Alumni, including Colette, have come together to form the ALBA Association. They recently became members of AONTAS and their aim is to encourage third level institutes and community groups to make the ALBA programme available for other adult learners.  

 “It wasn't financially possible for me to continue my studies”

I always had a strong interest in learning but as one of 13 children it wasn't financially possible for me to continue my studies, so I realised it was possible to switch from the Leaving Certificate course to a secretarial course which at the time best suited my needs. Following this I left home to au pair as I was interested in learning a new language. I found work in Switzerland and within six months I was able to communicate fluently (enough to get by) in German.

“I realised my qualifications were not recognised here”

I worked for multinational companies in the private sector and through work place training and development I eventually became an Executive Assistant. 16 years later I returned home to Ireland and I realised my qualifications were not recognised here - I kept hearing that I needed a degree. I became fed up being told that, although I had great experience, I lacked the necessary qualifications to advance my career.

“I knew I had been putting off getting the qualifications that I really wanted”

I needed a change so I enrolled in a private beauty therapy course in Dublin. I received my diploma and ran my own successful business for 9 years. I started to revaluate what I was doing and realised that I wasn’t fully satisfied - I knew I had been putting off getting the qualifications that I really wanted. I heard about the Adult Learner Bachelor of Arts in Personnel and Professional Development course, otherwise known as the ALBA programme which is accredited by Dublin City University (DCU) and run at All Hallows. The programme appealed to me because instead of meeting lots of entry requirements, you were assessed on your experience and qualities.

“I will admit that during the first few days my heart was always in my mouth”

It was a great experience and I enjoyed every minute of the programme. I will admit that during the first few days my heart was always in my mouth and I would think to myself - “What have I let myself in for?” It can be really daunting going back to education but I soon felt the high level of support within the group. There were people from all walks of life and each person really wanted (rather than had to) to be there which created such an enthusiastic atmosphere. We all worked very hard and examiners and course inspectors would always comment on the high quality work the programme participants produced.

“We all feel passionately about the ALBA programme”

All Hallows entered a new phase when it ceased operating and passed to DCU recently. The last group will graduate in winter 2017. Former alumni of the ALBA programme have formed the ALBA Alumni Association. We all feel passionately about the programme and our main aim is to encourage third level institutes and community groups to make it available. We feel that ALBA is an important programme that contributes to personal, social and community development and we are extremely hopeful for its future. 

If you have an inspiring learner story that you would like to share you can contact Karen Williams, Learner Supports Officer by email:kwilliams@aontas.com, call 01 406 8220 or you can fill out our short learner story survey here:https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LearnerStory.

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