AN Ardglass woman studying at the Downpatrick SERC campus has been crowned overall Essential Skills NI Learner of the Year at this year’s Essential Skills Awards.
Marieanne O’Shea was presented with the award at a glittering ceremony held at Hillsborough Castle. In addition, Marieanne received the Co. Down Essential Skills Learner of the Year 2011 award and also received a highly commended certificate in the Essential Skills ICT awards.
As a mature student and mother with a part-time job, Marieanne has had to overcome a number of obstacles, including family commitments and illness, on her learning journey. Despite this, Marieanne’s attendance and work at South Eastern Regional College in Downpatrick were exemplary and, combined with an infectious enthusiasm for study, resulted in her achieving an Essential Skills ICT level 2 qualification. Marieanne has continued to follow an Access to Healthcare course as she works towards her ambition to become a midwife.
Commenting on her learning experience, Marieanne said, “Being back in education has given me a focus and a thirst for learning. I can honestly say that enrolling in the classes was the best decision I have ever made. It was challenging going back to study as a mature student with children but somehow I found the motivation to keep going and I really enjoyed the course I was doing. I had to undergo cancer treatment in the middle of my studies which was very difficult and I’ve have come through all of that. Now I’ve been offered a place to continue my health studies at the Universty of Ulster. This is just absolutely fantastic. I’m just so delighted”
Also picking up a gong at the awards ceremony, Ardglass women Gloria Feenan-O’Neill collected the prize for the ICT Learner of the Year. Goria said, “I am just over the moon about this. I never thought I had the ability to get this far in education. I have worked as a hairdresser for a number of years and have found a new set of talents. It was really challenging but I must say that the tutors at SERC were all first class and brought the best out in me. I have since been offered a place to go on and study criminology or sociology which could lead me into a career in social work. I am just overwhelmed that this new opportunity has opened up its doors for me.”
Employment and Learning Minister, Danny Kennedy, congratulated overall winner Marieanne and said, “The commitment to learning shown by Marieanne, in the most difficult of circumstances, is an example to us all. She is a worthy winner of the Essential Skills Learner of the Year Award.”
The Minister went on to highlight the benefits of improved Essential Skills, including greater self-confidence, improved job prospects and career opportunities. He said, “To date, over 56,000 learners have gained almost 100,000 qualifications through my Department’s free Essential Skills provision and, in doing so, have helped to build better futures. In the current economic climate, where employers need a workforce that is literate, numerate and confident with ICT, the need for investment in Essential Skills has never been greater.”
The Minister added, “It is vital that we bring learning to the vast majority of adults already in employment, many of whom have moved beyond the reach of the traditional education system. A continuing commitment to Essential Skills provision will deliver the workplace skills which are essential for both economic growth and personal progression and are necessary for people to be able to adapt to change.”
This is the fourth year of the Awards, which are designed to recognise and celebrate outstanding achievements in literacy, numeracy and ICT learning. In addition to the overall Learner of the Year award, six regional award winners and 20 Highly Commended entries, an ICT award, a Trade Union award and an were presented. An Essential Skills Champion, in recognition of the outstanding contribution by an individual to the Essential Skills agenda, was announced and an award for Essential Skills Quality of Provision was also presented.