Graduation ceremony for Athlone VTOS students

Athlone VTOS students recently graduated at a certificate ceremony that was held in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel.

The certification was provided by QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) at Levels Four and Five and the Irish Computer Society Foundation provided certification for the European Computer Driving Licence [now ICDL] course.

This year there were 48 certificates presented, comprising of 21 full QQI Level 5 certificates and 21 component certificates. There were also 6 full ECDL certificates.

The Athlone VTOS programme is run by the Longford Westmeath Education and Training Board (LWETB) and is funded by the Department of Education and the European Social Fund. The full time course runs for two years with a wide range of subjects at QQI Level 5 in Business Administration, Software Development and Art/Craft. Athlone VTOS is now situated at Garrycastle at the Athlone Training Centre with state of the art facilities, free parking for students and an excellent canteen.

This certification is very valuable in both providing a path to third level education and also in re-entering the workplace. Employers are quick to recognise the potential of students who have been successful in achieving certification from QQI – which incorporates the necessary practical skills which employers require in the workplace today.

Several of the past students who attended the night had gained employment since leaving VTOS or had gone on to continue their studies at a higher level at the AIT and Maynooth.

Opening the night, Maria Ryan (VTOS Co-ordinator) explained that opportunities for employment have changed recently with the upturn in the economy and VTOS students had armed themselves with new skills and qualification that are exactly what are needed to gain employment and ultimately help rebuild Ireland.

Antonine Healy (Director of Further Education and Training) said each successful student was the best kind of ambassador for the great service provided by the Longford Westmeath Education and Training Board.

She remarked that there were so many different courses available not just at Garrycastle Training Centre but throughout the LWETB which range from part time options – to full time programmes like VTOS – to courses for those in work such as the “Skills for work” initiative.

“We can all be part of the Life Long Learning ethos,” she said.

Another very welcome guest on the night was Nicola Galvin (Adult Education Officer) who spoke about the amount of time and effort it takes to achieve certification and commended the students on their outstanding achievements. She said it was very evident that the students had really enjoyed their time on the VTOS course and that they had forged new friendships, gained in confidence and realised their potential.

Evidence of this was shown by the students who volunteered to speak on the night about their experiences at VTOS.

Kristina Hilberta spoke on behalf of the Art and Craft students and said how she hadn’t intended to stay on the course and was nervous before starting – but once she started, she loved it.

She felt that she was always a person who was good at craft but that she learned so much about art and so many new techniques on the course and she paid tribute to the lovely staff and her fellow students who all still keep in touch – even after finishing the course.

Nicola Dully also spoke about her experiences on the course and how – two years ago she wouldn’t have dreamed of standing there making a speech. She was proud of what herself and her fellow students had achieved and she remarked: “I’ve got the bug – I want to keep on learning! So much so that I am now doing an Office Administration course and while it’s tough, I’m really enjoying it! I would never have done this course if I hadn’t gone to VTOS first!”

Edel Hogan spoke on befall of the Business students. Edel has now moved on to Third Level education and is studying Business at the AIT. She paid tribute to all her tutors and felt that the skills she learned at VTOS gave her that edge when she went to third level. She urged anyone thinking of doing a course to join VTOS and also to go to college and feels this offers people a chance to change their lives in such a positive way.

Adult students take the courageous decision to return to education and to take another chance to finally fulfil their true potential. The successful students enjoyed their evening – it was one of celebration and recognition for all their hard work and they went off with the all-important “piece of paper”.

The Athlone VTOS motto is: “It’s never too late to learn”, and indeed all the successful students are shining examples of this!

This article was first published in the Westmeath Independent on 7 December 2019.

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