Tuesday 25 February 2020

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Cork Independent

Lifestyle & Leisure

A rewarding and positive experience

Wednesday, 5th February, 2020 4:38pm

As part of The National Learning Network (NLN) programme, instructors work closely with local businesses who offer students work experience.

After a student graduates from their course, the NLN aims to help them apply the skills they’ve learned in class to the real world, through experience with local employers.

One of the many business people who have supported the programme is Centra Crosshaven manager Conor Midleton. In recent years Conor has worked closely with NLN Instructor Veronica Fitzgibbon, and offered NLN students work experience, and even employed students as full-time staff.

Speaking about Conor’s support for the programme, Veronica said: “I’ve worked with Conor for about two years. I met with him and asked would he be interested in supporting us through work experience. Conor is fantastic to work with. He’s very personable, and really takes an interest in developing the students.”

Brian O’Sullivan is a graduate of the NLN, and has been working for Conor for the past 12 months.

Speaking about Brian’s employment experience, Conor said: “Brian came to work with us and was a great fit. He did six months' work experience with us, and I was thrilled to offer him a full-time position with us.”

Speaking about his employment with Centra, Brian said: “I love it here, the staff, the routine, and dealing with customers. Since I started here, I’ve become more social and I stick to my commitments more than I did before I had this job.”

Initially Conor had some concerns about whether the work experience programme might interfere with the day-to-day operation of the shop. However Veronica brought the students to meet Conor, and explained how the process would be supported by an instructor to ensure it was a positive experience for the business offering the experience. Following the initial visit two years ago, Conor has been supporting the NLN ever since.

Conor said: “Veronica is great for bringing the students down and really makes the working relationship run smoothly and effortlessly. She provides all the details and really talks through what’s involved and how it all works. From our point of view, there is a huge benefit in that we are getting a person who is going to add value to our store and who is enthusiastic and really wants to get some work experience on their CV. It’s very rewarding and positive experience to give them the opportunity for employment that they may not get somewhere else.”

Though many prospective employers might assume the process is overly complicated, NLN staff work closely with employers to streamline the process and make it a seamless experience. Many employers in Cork have supported the programme, building a strong relationship between NLN staff members and Cork business people.

“I was concerned it would take up endless amounts of time. That wasn’t the case. It’s been very streamlined and straightforward to manage,” said Conor.

The programme works under the Wage Subsidy Scheme, run by the Department of Employment and Social Protection. This programme subsidises employee’s pay as an incentive for employers to consider giving NLN students an opportunity to get back into the workforce.

“We give the students an opportunity to work here on a trial basis to see if the student fits in to the culture,” continued Conor. “After a student has completed an agreed amount of work experience, we would then look at our options, possibly offering the person permanent work.”

For more information about the NLN centres in Bantry, Hollyhill, and Model Farm Road, visit rehab.ie/national-learning-network/ or email cork@nln.ie.

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