The news that courses will be run in Longford by the new Longford/Westmeath Education and Training Board (ETB) leading to degree courses in Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) was met with enthusiasm during last weekâ€™s board meeting.
CEO, Christy Duffy explained that research carried out by Solas identified various skills requirements that were necessary throughout the country and the appropriate courses would subsequently be run by the various ETBâ€™s nationwide. He also said that the new â€˜co-operation agreementâ€™ between the two education facilities would lead to a more skill specific workforce and generate employment in local areas.
â€œAs a result of that research, we are now able to determine employment trends,â€ said Mr Duffy. â€œNow we will be able to run courses where there are job opportunities and not just run them because we feel like running them. Also we will introduce more Level 6 course opportunities, so that students undertaking theses will be able to continue to the various degree levels at AIT; this is a very positive move in the right direction.â€
Second level schools in the area that will be incorporated into the new AIT plan include Ardscoil Phadraig, Lanesboro Community College and Templemichael College, Longford.
Cllr Denis Leonard then pointed to the benefits the new education plan would have in the area. â€œWe are now marrying courses to labour market trends,â€ he added. â€œWe are now saying that we need those skills in such an area, thereby creating jobs. I think this is a fantastic move and it makes perfect sense to me.â€
Cllr Paul Connell (Ind) then pointed out that there was no employment in the country, so what difference was the new plan â€œactually going to make?â€. â€œSure there is no employment to be got in this country at all at the present time,â€ he fumed. â€œWhere is the employment in Longford; where is the employment in Westmeath? It is nil, that is what it is. We need a lot more information about what exactly is going on with this ETB if you ask me.â€
ETBâ€™s Mary Toher also pointed to the benefits of the new deal with AIT. â€œIt is great to see this plan moving forward,â€ said, adding that more and more students in the country would now be in a position to access better education opportunities. â€œMore and more people are opting now for further education and if they are able to move more easily into degree and masters courses at AIT following their participation in various levels at local ETBâ€™s, then we are going to end up with a very skilled, educated and employable workforce, so I very much welcome this.â€
In conclusion, CEO Mr Duffy said that he was confident the move would be effective in terms of the overall function of local ETB and he added, â€œETBs will also be responsible for the renewal of apprenticeships and this is also very significant... It will be a major function of Longford/Westmeath ETB to increase and enhance job opportunities in the region and this is positive.â€