Happy to have returned to education at CTC
Like education institutions throughout the country, the students and staff at Nenagh Community Training Centre returned to term recently with a sense of trepidation.
But despite the new challenges posed by Covid-19, the Learners and Team at Nenagh CTC have found the last few weeks a positive experience, one that they are starting to enjoy again.
"Going back was a bit nerve-wracking at first, especially with everyone returning from different areas," said Learner representative Edwina Cornally of Borrisokane. "But when I saw all the safety measures, I knew there was nothing to worry about."
The impressive measures include a plethora of signage informing all present about the necessary Covid precautions, and ensuring they maintain two metres of social distance required by further education and training centres. Hand sanitisers are in place throughout the building and the effective Sanitise 360 handheld sanitisers are also in use.
Nenagh CTC has a dedicated reponse plan in place and an isolation room for people who become unwell. A one-way system is in effect throughout the centre and every room has a sign indicating the maximum number of people that can be present at one time. Meanwhile, break times have been split to reduce the numbers congregating at the canteen.
Providing a 'second chance' education, training and work experience to young people aged between 16 and 21 years, who have left school with incomplete or no formal qualifications, Nenagh CTC offers wide-ranging opportunities in the likes of hairdressing to woodwork to catering and IT skills. There are 41 Learners and a Team of 17 teachers and facilities at the centre, and Manager Rose Shanahan said they're still doing everything they were before the Covid-enforced closure last March, albeit with strict new protocols in place.
"This is a massive change for the Learners and our focus is on getting them back into the centre and feeling safe," Ms Shanahan said on settling into the new term at Nenagh CTC.
"This has been challenging for all of us, as it is completely different. It's a new way of working, a new way of living and a new way of learning."
This term has a greater emphasis on use of laptops over stationary, where possible, with blended learning in operation using the Google Classroom digital platform. Where practical work needs to be carried out in closer proximity - such as in the woodwork or hairdressing rooms - Learners and staff members wear PPE.
There is also an emphasis on mental wellbeing and a counsellor is available at the centre every week to discuss the Covid crisis with those present, along with anything else they might want to talk about.
SENSE OF SOLIDARITY
There is a great sense of solidarity among all present at the centre, with Learners and Team members keeping in contact with another digitally throughout the lockdown. They even managed to create a news magazine - 'The Inside Story' - during the period of confinement.
"Our Learners and the Team were very active during lockdown and they embraced the new technology," Ms Shanahan said. "This has continued into the situation we are in now, and I would like to commend the teaching team and the facilities team for their dedication to working with the new now and ensuring our daily activities are achieved."
Walking in and around the centre, one is struck by the wonderful artwork on display, much of it paying tribute to that sense of cohesion between students and staff. One piece - displayed on the wall of what is now the isolation room - was created after the centre commissioned one of its former Learners, Didi Delaney (now a Second Year student at Limerick School of Art & Design) to work on a standout piece with the existing cohort of Learners.
Planning permission has been secured to develop a mezzanine floor in this section of the centre. Among other changes taking place, space is being cleared at a formerly disused part of the John's Lane centre (once a toilet block of the Christian Brothers School that used to occupy the site) where work is now taking place on the creation of an 'urban garden', in which the Learners will plant wildflowers. Those involved are learning DIY, health & safety and landscaping skills.
There will also be scope for a graffiti art project in this area, where the Team furthermore hope to provide an outdoor classroom for the teaching of dry stone walling and mosaic art.
The work complements the excitement at the CTC and the sense of joy among all present at returning from what seemed for many an interminable hiatus.
"We're all so happy to be back," said Ms Cornally. "It's good to be back into a routine. You do get very attached to the people here; it's like a family!"
A Second Year Learner at Nenagh CTC, she would have been finished by now only for the pandemic. But Ms Cornally is quite happy to remain attending the centre until January, after which she hopes to make use of the skills she has learned on the Hair & Beauty course.
Ms Shanahan took the opportunity to praise Edwina and fellow Learner Rep Brian Mitchell, along with all the Learners and Team members at the centre. She also wanted to thank the Board of Management and Tipperary ETB for their support, and added an extra word of thanks to Team members Rosario Hall and and John McKeogh for assisting with the implementation of the "new now" measures at Nenagh CTC.