She said the issue of progression to college was one “close to her heart” and added that “education is an investment that pays massive dividends”. She went on to say that the purpose of College Awareness Week was to “raise awareness of the opportunities currently available to every single student in the nation today”. She cited the Government’s vision for education as one which will ensure “equality of access and opportunity regardless of background” and that “education is the key".
Ms Mitchell O’Connor pledged the Government’s commitment to increasing the number of students doing apprenticeships from 9,500 this year to 50,000 by 2020. She said that further progress will be made this week on the passing of the Technological Universities Bill to help drive regional development and job growth. She said students were being given the tools to “paint a portrait of possibilities” in this “Republic of opportunities” and that no-one would be left behind once they had ‘the courage to better themselves".
Primary students from Scoil Cholmcille Senior Primary School, Ballybrack, secondary students from Cabinteely Community School as well as DFEI students - who assisted in organising the event - were present to hear the Minister of State speak. Visiting students were then given the opportunity to speak of their hopes, dreams and career goals, and how they hoped to achieve these goals, which spanned the industries of Architecture, Film Studies and Science.
Dr Grainne Quinn, Executive Vice President from Perrigo, chief sponsors of College Awareness Week and global suppliers of healthcare products, spoke to the students directly about Perrigo’s “vested interest in developing native talent in Ireland’. Dr Quinn said college education “should be available to all” and cited third level attendance numbers as low as 26% in some areas of social disadvantage, as numbers that had to be addressed. Dr Quinn commented that College Awareness Week plays its part but “funding students hoping to attend third level education” was the key to progress.
When questioned about solving the financial difficulties students often encounter when looking to attend third level education, founder of the event, Kathleen O’Toole from Trinity College Dublin said College Awareness Week was not a “silver bullet that could remedy all the issues but the start of a conversation and just one piece of the puzzle”.
College Awareness Week runs from the 20th to the 26th of November with events held all around the country to promote the benefits of going to college and to help students of all ages to become college-ready. It is a national initiative, now in its fourth year, set up to offer assistance to those looking to move on to third level education.
All attendees were invited outside for a release of balloons symbolising that the ‘sky is the limit’ when it comes to possibilities through further education. A unique mural was commissioned and created for the occasion by the graffiti artist and DFEi student Tadgh Burke-Kennedy.
Further information on all the events on offer is available at the College Awareness Week website: www.collegeaware.ie .
John Mc Kiernan