I did my ERASMUS+ job shadowing at Cork Education and Training Board (CETB) in Ireland. Cork has received Unesco’s Learning City award and the philosophy of lifelong learning can well be seen in Cork.
Job shadowing was an excellent opportunity to meet colleagues in another country and get to reflect my own work. I had a chance to have a wonderful dialogue about what is important in facilitating skills with wise and competent trainers of SHEP (Social and Health Education Project) in their trainers’ meeting. I also got to think about using boat building as a tool for empowerment and learning social skills in Meitheal Mara Community Boat Yard (we have a boat building connection in KSL, too).
I got to ponder the balance between dedication and a risk of burn out of trainers and mentors at Mayfield Community Centre and all the aspects of providing training to young men who are on parole and have an alcohol and/or drug addiction at Matt Talbot – are the problems to be fixed in the environment and communities, or in the people reacting to unhealthy conditions?
Community centres reach many kinds of vulnerable groups and underprivileged people. There are surely many factors that explain why it is so easy for everyone to come to a community centre, but some of the common features that I noticed in all the places I visited were first of all a genuinely warm, welcoming atmosphere and secondly an ability to really see the other person – meet and accept everyone for who they are.
Pedagogical tools often included arts in different forms and other hands on approaches as means for social inclusion. I was happy to see, that peer learning was also very much appreciated. For instance, at Ballyphehane Community Centre elderly ladies were teaching handicraft techniques to younger people.
I came to think about setting goals in (for me) unconventional contexts. I took a class with a group of community centres’ employees about certifying basic skills competences via an e-tool and saw interesting ways of defining some of the basic skills. I also visited the Academy of Music where long-term unemployed people studied music with a real goal orientation. Some of their former students had continued music studies at the university even though they had no background in music before entering Academy of Music as adults. It is also interesting that SHEP has long-term training programs in personal development.
I am the quality assurance manager of my organisation and therefore QA was one of my interests during my job shadowing. I learned about the excellent quality assurance system of CETB. I also had an opportunity to follow a meeting SHEP had with University College Cork (UCC) about their common training program. The meeting was very much about evaluation, constant improvement and having good quality. I also followed the CETB youth officer to a meeting about how to make quality assurance work in practice in youth work at Mitchelstown FET Centre and Youth Service. The meetings were QA “in action”. I realized, that good dialogue skills are an asset in quality management, too. And the people working in education in Cork, they really have those skills. Or is it an Irish thing?
I met the coordinators of Cork Learning City, Learning Neighbourhoods Program and Lifelong Learning Festival. Their work is very impressive. As an adult educator one can only admire Cork for having a positive brand as a learning city and people really working hard for it in practice.
KSL Study Centre
This article is part of a series of articles about learning experiences in the field of adult education in an European context. Our ERASMUS+ KA1 project is called “European Educational Know-how Supporting Civil Society”.
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