AIT offers upskilling to Bord na Mona staff as rural fallout felt

Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) has acknowledged the impact of the extensive job losses that will ensue in rural areas as Bord na Mona moves away from its traditional peat business into renewables and sustainable business.

“As one of the largest employers in the midlands, this announcement represents a seismic shift in circumstance for employees and their families who have long counted on Bord na Mona for job security and peace of mind,” said Dr. Michael Tobin, dean of faculty of continuing, professional, online and distance learning at AIT.

The 430 job losses, which have been announced as part of a plan towards decarbonisation, will have a devastating impact on rural Ireland, as much of the midlands depends on an industry like this.

“That is why it is crucial to offer workers upskilling now so that they will have the skills and competencies needed to thrive.

“As the sole higher education institution in the midlands, we are uniquely positioned to support Bord na Mona’s staff and management team as they navigate the jobs market over the coming weeks and months. With a reputation for being finely attuned to the needs of industry, AIT is is constantly creating new and innovative learning programmes targeted at filling future skills gaps and the requirements of the growing midlands,” he said.

Local Programmes

Currently, the faculty of continuing, professional, online and distance learning is involved in delivering programmes on an outreach basis in areas including: Ballinasloe; Longford; Mullingar; and Tullamore. At present, over 30 people are undertaking AIT’s NFQ Level 6 certificate in the fundamentals of bio pharma and med tech in Tullamore.

The institute has, Dr. Tobin said, the capacity and educational scaffolding in place to offer other such programmes locally.

This is the third programme the institute has successfully delivered in Tullamore, funded through the Springboard+ initiative which, to date, has resulted in the upskilling of 70 graduates.

“It is important to note that programmes such as this are free to those in employment,” Dr. Tobin said. “Professional development and work-based practice form a key component of our Springboard+ programmes, making them ideally suited to Bord na Mona staff as they consider their career trajectory.

Personal Launchpad

“These modules have the capacity to act as a personal launchpad for employees who are considering their next career move.

“We would be delighted to partner with Bord na Mona to support our region and its stakeholders, with the view to making these career changes as smooth and as stress-free as possible for all involved.

“We are here to support Bord na Mona in every way that we can, including supporting it in utilising existing staff in different capacities as they move into new key areas of growth.”

Age Not a Barrier

While many of the affected staff have voiced concerns about securing alternative work because of their age, Dr. Tobin said that age is not perceived as a barrier to re-entry to engaging with AIT.

Indeed, we have a range of supports to assist students starting with: a very comprehensive induction programme; free online study skills; free academic writing supports; free classes in IT and academic writing delivered throughout the year on Saturdays; and an excellent team who are fully aware of the challenges that returners might experience.

The result has been that the last academic year 92% of all learners that commenced programmes – over 800 students – with the department of lifelong learning completed their relevant programme.”

Betterment of the Midlands

AIT president, Professor Ciaran O Cathain, said: “Now is the time for Bord na Mona and its key stakeholders in the region, including AIT, to pull together for the betterment of the midlands and the families that reside here.

If we act now, we can turn this seismic shift in circumstance into an opportunity for growth and development.

“The programmes for study on offer at our award-winning institute are varied and in tune with the needs of industry. We offer a range of exciting courses across a wide spectrum of disciplines that will furnish Bord na Mona employees with the relevant skills and competencies needed to forge a successful career here in the midlands region.”