‘Going back to education has given me a bug for learning’
Carmel Ward has returned to education Photo by Paddy Barrett

‘Going back to education has given me a bug for learning’

RETURNING to education can be daunting but as local mam Carmel Ward discovered, there’s “phenomenal” support available to help students along the way.

Living in Ballycullen, Carmel (55) went back to education two years ago after being a homemaker for 27 years and raising her three children.

Carmel this week spoke with The Echo to highlight the community-based opportunities to accessible education, and the support network provided to people of all ages looking to embark on a new journey.

“I decided it was time for me to return to the workforce but in order to do that, I needed to go back to education,” Carmel said.

“Initially, I was only dipping my toe in the water, I was thinking let’s explore this”.

After spotting an ad for An Cosán in Tallaght, Carmel began her preliminary and cautious investigations.

However, when she met Bess McBride, co-ordinator of women’s programmes in An Cosán, she was encouraged to give education a go and started on a Business Administration and Digital Skills course.

“I was petrified but the amount of encouragement from An Cosán, its teachers and Bess was just amazing,” Carmel said.

“They gave me the confidence to do it.

“My confidence was growing every day, I was getting into the swing of education… and now I am going to graduate with a very strong distinction.

“Going back to education is daunting, it is scary but the sense of achievement you get, it’s all worth it.

“It is achievable”.

As with all learning, the programme went online with the arrival of Covid.

“I was petrified of Zoom in the beginning, now you can’t stop me from talking,” she said.

“Even though we didn’t have in-person classes, there was great student support.

“Everyone just gelled.

“There was no competition, everybody encouraged and supported everybody else.

“We were all in this together and all brought each other on.”

Carmel is now hoping to secure employment in the coming months and feels equipped with the skills needed for the workforce, including Zoom, LinkedIn and CV creation.

Work experience in Bank of America also helped Carmel to practically apply her new skills in an office setting.

“I’d love to work in a community development programme… a community-based job,” Carmel said, looking forward.

“I’d like to be meeting new people every day.

“It’s my time now to meet people, socialise and to learn more.

“Going back to education has given me a bug for learning.”

Carmel took part in An Cosán’s Women’s Education Programme, a two-year progression pathway through education into quality employment.

The project has received funding from Rethink Ireland, in partnership with Bank of America and the Department of Rural and Community Development through the Dormant Accounts Fund.

Rethink Ireland recently announced a €400,000 extension of the Mná na hÉireann – Women of Ireland Fund to support employment opportunities for women.

The funding extension will support Rethink Ireland in continuing to work with a number of community-based organisations, such as An Cosán in Jobstown, Tallaght.

Looking back over the past two years, Carmel said: “I’d encourage anybody to go for it, particularly with An Cosán, there is just so much support surrounding your education journey.

“The support was phenomenal.”

For further information on back to education opportunities visit HERE or call An Cosán on 01 4628488.

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