31st August, 2018

FORTY long-term unemployed, people with disabilities, early school leavers and refugees who took part in an innovative programme to help get people who are disadvantaged to re-enter the workforce or return to education were honoured today at a certification ceremony.

In November 2017, Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure, Paschal Donohoe TD launched the Ag Obair le Chéile project- an innovative new training and employment programme run by National Learning Network in Phibsboro, which is part of the Rehab Group. Today the Minister returned to attend the certification ceremony for the proud participants at a ceremony held in his constituency in Croke Park.

Over the past 15 months the project has worked with 40 people who have been supported to take the next step in their employment journey, or to move on to further education.

The majority of the participants were referred by the Department of Social Protection, The Irish Refugee Council, Local Employment Services, Headway, Dublin North West Area Partnership and National Learning Network in Phibsboro.

A total of 17 of the participants are now employed by a range of high-profile companies such as Ryanair, Sherry Fitzgerald and Facebook. Nine people have progressed onto further education, going on to complete vocational and degree level training at DCU and NLN, with some gaining access through Springboard. National Learning Network has more than 50 centres nationwide, offering training and employment supports to people with disabilities and disadvantage.

Ag Obair Le Chéile offers personalised, one-to-one support to people who are finding it difficult to get and keep a job in areas such as Catering/Hospitality, ICT and Construction.

The participants spent 60pc of their time in work placements developing the skills and experience they needed to get and keep a job.  Participants who undertook the course also ended up with a QQI Level 4 qualification if required. 

Among the graduates was Florin Chrican from Romania who had worked in construction until he moved to Ireland eight years ago with very little English in an attempt to find a better life for his family. Florin worked in a coffee shop before deciding to change his career path. He enrolled in the Ag Obair Le Cheile programme and is now working for Facebook. Florin said the project enabled him to recognise his transferable skills and helped him land his new role. He believes if it wasn’t for Ag Obair le Chéile, he would never have found this new career path.

Florin said: “Ag Obair Le Chéile programme helped me to identify my strengths and gave me a great level of support, encouragement and the confidence I needed to be able to apply  and be successful in my new position,” said Florin.

Johnathan Brady grew up in north inner city Dublin, an early school leaver with no formal qualifications, he attempted to return to education as an adult but struggled without the correct supports which knocked his confidence.

Johnathan always had a passion for working outdoors and for maintaining gardens, however when his mother became ill he became her full-time carer for seven years, so his career took a backseat. When his mother passed away two years ago, he was keen to complete some form of training so he could gain fulltime employment in horticulture.

At first I was very apprehensive about starting the Ag Obair Le Chéile programme as I had some bad experiences in school but I found the staff a huge support. I struggled with using computers and had some literacy issues which I overcame. My biggest challenge was mixing with the other students but the project gave me the skills and confidence I needed to engage with society in a more confident manner. During my time on work experience at the Office of Public Works in the Phoenix Park Dublin I got some great experience in horticulture and I knew then that I wanted to continue in this field. I now have progressed onto a full-time Horticulture course with National Learning Network in Stillorgan and I am on track to finally get a qualification in an area that I am passionate about.”

Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD, said: “It gives me great pleasure to return today, having launched the Ag Obair le Chéile initiative last November, to honour the 40 programme participants who have recently returned to the workforce or to education. It takes great courage to take the often difficult steps to put the foundations in place to get back to work or to education, enabling a brighter future to be built. With the help of this innovative new training programme, Ag Obair le Chéile, supported by JP Morgan and delivered by the National Learning Network, is giving those who have been struggling to progress their job or education prospects the confidence and the necessary skills to do just that.

“We are making great strides in getting people back to work – just this week the CSO confirmed that we now have more people at work than ever before in Ireland – but we must pay special attention to those who are experiencing difficulty in finding their place in the workforce or furthering their education. It is crucial that everyone benefits from the improvements in the economy and that nobody in society is left behind. That’s why programmes like this are so important.  Those involved in delivering the programme are to be commended for their work. And, most importantly, those who have undertaken the programme, with great success, should be proud of their achievements. I wish them every success for the future. ”

CEO of Rehab Group, Mo Flynn said: “This was an absolutely fantastic project that we were very proud to run with great thanks to J.P.  Morgan for allowing it to become a reality. It is fantastic to see the broad range of employers engaging with us on this programme and to hear about the life changing success stories of many of our participants.  Activation programmes such as this seek to ensure engagement with jobseekers so they can get the supports they need to find a job, training or educational opportunities. They also offer a lifeline, a vital bridge into the workforce. Support and assistance in seeking and finding suitable work in the open labour market is a major focus of our National Learning Networks.”

The support for Ag Obair le Chéile is part of an annual global investment by JPMorgan Chase of $200 million, which is designed to create pathways to opportunity in the regions where they do business by supporting financial capability and development of communities, workforce, and small business. In Ireland J.P. Morgan supports several programs that help individuals acquire the knowledge, skills and expertise necessary to obtain quality jobs, compete in the global economy and find new pathways to economic opportunity.