Some of the adult learners who attended the forum in Ballincollig recently.

Adult learners share their experiences at forum

A high demand for certain courses, rising costs of food and beverages at centres, and a lack of tutors to run disability-friendly courses were among some of the concerns raised by Cork learners recently.

The issues were raised during a regional meeting of the National Further Education and Training (FET) Learner Forum held in Ballincollig where 79 adult learners came together to share their personal experiences of Further Education and Training and suggested improvements to ensure learners thrive in a further education setting.

The National FET Learner Forum is a collaborative effort between AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority, and Education and Training Boards. This meeting was one of a series of regional meetings that will take place across the country this year.

Last year, thousands of learners across Ireland shared their experience of learning through the forum.

A spokesperson for the forum said adult learners, during the meeting, expressed an increase in confidence and empowerment to voice their concerns locally.

Migrant learners were keen to praise their tutors and how welcome they made them feel, while also sharing a real love of Ireland with them.

While there were some concerns expressed, the spokesperson said there were also many suggestions shared on how to address these issues, including more online course options, greater awareness of the learner council and circulating financial information to participants earlier in the process.

The spokesperson said: “Ultimately, adult learners were hugely positive about the learner forum, saying it was an excellent opportunity for problem solving through peer support. One learner remarked ‘There is a hunger for people to be part of this amazing, inclusive community and when it is fine-tuned it will be a well-oiled machine’.”

John Fitzgibbons, FET Director from Cork ETB said: “We are here to make sure that learner voices are really heard, right across the FET sector and not just at Cork ETB. It is vital to hear what the issues are for learners and to give you a platform to voice those issues.

“Putting these challenges to us as providers is critical to identify what the solutions should be. A voice heard once is just noise but as part of a conversation is heard many times,” he added.