Reducing the barriers to networking in job-hunting

Posted on: 16th January, 2014

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

Fergal Conlon presents a novel idea to reduce some of the barriers to networking and affordable skills enhancement.

In studying statistics on job-hunting and unemployment, one factor stands out above all others — education (and training). No matter what age, gender, nationality, existing standard of education or what era you are in — 1951 / 1982 or 2014 — the single most effective activity a job seeker can undertake to assist getting a job will be investment in education (and training).

I was delighted to see Galway based winning a prestigious award for its free on-line training. We have recently enjoyed an explosion in Mooc’s – [Massive Open Online Course’s]. These add to FAS / Springboard / NALA and a wide spectrum of FREE, accessible training available on-line, Irish and global. These resources can be a very effective tool to help job-seeking. Free, excellent courses are now available for every subject matter and every learning level. Google itself is the best library in the world, and is available to everyone, everywhere for free. In addition, traditional ‘distance learning’ courses have evolved to include on-line and interactive dimensions.

Barriers to enhancing education such as cost / geography / distance / timing / family commitments can now be significantly reduced by a determined learner in almost any circumstances and backgrounds.

The problem with on-line training and distance learning is that students do not benefit from the peer contact and social interaction associated with a campus setting.

Unemployment is also a very isolating condition. The loss of communication and ‘banter’ amongst fellow workers is one of the most damaging outcomes from losing a job. Networking remains a very important job-seeking activity, so combining networking and education will be doubly effective.

We have seen the phenomenal growth in Men’s Sheds and Coder Dojo movements. These projects have the common goal of bringing people together to share skills, learn from each other and increase social interaction (networking) to the mutual benefit of all involved.

So, our suggestion and challenge to you is – set up an ‘On-Line Learners club’ or  ‘study-buddy club’ in your local area. This would be a weekly or bi-weekly social occasion when on-line learners and distance learners come together in a comfortable environment, to work on their course in the company of peers. The purpose will be to discuss progress, overcome issues, share learning, exchange ideas and help each other achieve positive goals.

The venue should be a hotel, café, library or community building with comfort, warmth and excellent (free and fast) Wi-Fi. The venue should be free or cheap. A small donation to cover facilities or refreshments is appropriate, but charges should not be prohibitive to welfare recipients. We hope facility providers will see the benefit of the ‘On-Line Learners’ club by charging according. The club should elect officers to lead the project and communicate with all members on social media. Headphones will be essential to reduce noise impact and a set-time should be allotted for off-line conversation among the group during each session.

Peer support is well known to be a very effective strategy to assist difficult change and endeavour among adults. Think Weight Watchers / AA or other group session based activities. Peer learning – ie, sharing the learning experience is also known to be a most effective learning style. The on-line learners club will tap into these benefits.

One often hears ‘Networking’ described as an important job-seeking strategy. In the main, this means getting ‘out there’ meeting new people, becoming known, widening your circle of acquaintances, and seeking others to act as your ‘agent’ in the job-market. We know that more than 80 per cent of jobs are not advertised, but filled through other channels, in particular from within the networks of those already engaged in those businesses.

Working on developing your skills towards employment will greatly help your job-hunting. Doing so in a club, working alongside others will be even better. Moving from unemployment in to a job is not going to be easy. But you do not have to do it alone. Working with others will help you to stay the course and see projects through. Sharing the experience will reinforce the learning.

But this won’t happen by itself. Our challenge to you is to start the New Year by taking control of your future. Organise and promote an ‘On-Line Learners’ club in your area. We will be delighted to help any fledgling club. Please contact if you plan to establish a local on-line learners club.

Fergal Conlon is Local Community Development Programme Manager with West Cork Development Partnership and Co-ordinator of the Job-Seekers’ Resource Centres in Kinsale / Macroom / Bandon / Clonakilty / Dunmanway / Bantry and Skibbereen. See for more details.

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.
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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

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Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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