Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.
We asked Karen O'Flaherty from ESERO Ireland to give some advice for people considering this job:
Read a lot – it’s a great way to find new ways to express ideas. Write a lot, even if just for yourself, so that you get used to communicating your ideas on paper. Develop your time management skills – that is crucial when working in an area that has very tight deadlines. Learn more languages – it’s very helpful to have an insight into how people express themselves in different languages.
What are your interests?
Not surprisingly, some aspect of the natural sciences will run through the Naturalist's interests - from ecological awareness to nutrition and health. People with an interest in horticulture, land usage and farming (including fish) are Naturalists.
Some Naturalists focus on animals rather than plants, and may enjoy working with, training, caring for, or simply herding them. Other Naturalists will prefer working with the end result of nature's produce - the food produced from plants and animals. Naturalists like solving problems with solutions that show some sensitivity to the environmental impact of what they do. They like to see practical results and prefer action to talking and discussing.
Video: Better Options - College Fair for Students with Disabilities & SLDs takes place this year on Wednesday 22nd November at DCU St. Patrick's College Drumcondra Campus. ~ AHEAD
As well as the mainstream world of work, a range of programmes and supports in post-school education and training are available for people with disabilities. These generally aim to assist people with disabilities in:
Accessing education and training appropriate to their needs, and
Making the transition from school and progressing successfully through the various post-school pathways in further and higher education and training
Various pathways are available. On leaving second level education students with a disability and/or special educational needs can opt to pursue:
The route of Rehabilitative training
Adult Day services
In general people with disabilities attend post-school education services or training courses on the same basis as people without disabilities. However, sometimes they may need support - this may include support from within their former school (the school Guidance Counsellor or other teachers), or relevant professionals outside the school, who have responsibility in relation to students with disabilities or special educational needs (i.e. the Access or Disability officers in the colleges of further education), or changes to accommodate their individual needs. Course providers make reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities.
Further Education and Training describes education and training that takes place after post-primary level education, and before and higher level education, but is not part of the third-level education system. Programmes can be full-time or part-time.
Full-time further education programmes are:
Post Leaving Certificate (PLC)
Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS)
Part-time further education programmes are:
The Back to Education Initiative (BTEI)
Full-Time Further Education Programmes
Post-Leaving Cert (PLC) course certification is generally at NFQ level 5 or 6 on the National Qualifications Framework (NFQ). Courses provide vocational skills for employment and/or progression to other studies. PLC programmes cater for:
Learners aged 16 and over who have completed their Leaving Certificate and
Adults returning to education
A huge range of PLC courses can be found at some 200 approved Further Education centres around the country. There are about 33,000 places available in more than 60 disciplines. Most courses are of one year duration but some last two years. Some offer certification from other bodies, such as City and Guilds and BTEC.
It is possible to take up a place on a PLC course and work your way into the next Level at the Institutes of Technology and Universities - many students, including students with disabilities, opt for this more gradual approach to acheiving a higher level qualification.
Details of the PLC Course route to college are available here. Our PLC CourseFinder is a useful tool for identifying courses that match your areas of interest.
More information about particular further education courses and programmes, including access information for people with disabilities, may be obtained by contacting the relevant ETB or local course provider.
Youthreach programmes provide up two years integrated education, training and work experience for unemployed early school leavers, who are aged 15 to 20, and without any qualifications or vocational training.
Youthreach Programmes vary, but are typically certified at NFQ level 3-5. Basic skills training, practical work training and general education are features of the programmes provided. The application of new technology is integrated into all aspects of programme content. There is a strong emphasis on personal development, on the core skills of literacy/numeracy, communications and IT, along with a choice of vocational options and a work experience programme. Individual action plans for learners are agreed and developed with participants while on the Youthreach programmes.
About 6,000 Youthreach places are available nationwide and are provided in just over 100 ETB Youthreach centres and in up to 40 community training centres (formerly FAS, these are now transferring to the ETBs).
Youthreach participants are entitled to training allowances based on age. Additional allowances for meals, travel and accommodation are also available. More information is available from the relevant local ETB.
The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) provides for second chance education/training courses of up to two years duration for those aged 21 or over including people with disabilities, who have been unemployed for at least six months.
VTOS aims to give participants education and training opportunities which develop and prepare them for paid employment or further education and training opportunities leading to employment.
About 6,000 places are available nationwide. VTOS participants are included in either general PLC courses or in specific courses provided for them. The courses are provided at NFQ levels 3-6.
The CRC Vocational Training Centre is located in Clontarf. Training comprises of both a vocational and pre-vocational training programme for young adults with physical and / or learning disability.
The trainee profile here is predominantly early school leavers from 16 to 20 years of age. Clontarf VTC caters for 24 trainees on an academic year basis (September to July). Training programmes incorporate a wide variety of both practical and personal training modules. Modules aim to equip young adults with disabilities to take responsibility for and have control over their own lives, and to set and achieve their own goals.
Focusing on ability rather than disability the centre places a strong emphasis on work experience and developing independence and social skills in preparation for further training, education or employment. Each programme follows a curriculum framework based on the FAS standard for Training and Development for People with Disabilities QA00/01, and guidelines set by the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Part-time further education programmes
Back To Education Initiative (BTEI)
The Back to Education Initiative funds part-time further education programmes for adults and young people. The BTEI gives people an opportunity to return to learning. Anyone who has left full-time education can take part, but priority is given to people who left school early and who don’t have the Leaving Certificate (NFQ 4-5).
Overall, the BTEI aims to increase the participation of young people and adults with less than upper post primary education in a range of part-time accredited learning opportunities leading to NFQ awards to facilitate their access, transfer and progression to other education or employment pathways.
The BTEI funds courses leading to certification at NFQ level 3-5, which provide a link to full-time further education and training and offer progression from literacy and community education programmes. These courses also facilitate participation in ICT training.
The BTEI supports individuals and groups, including people with disabilities who experience barriers to participation and find it more difficult to engage in the formal learning process.
Many adults, including people with disabilities, need help with reading, writing, numeracy or ICT skills. The adult literacy programme provides options for adults who wish to be competent and confident in a range of skills essential for full and effective participation in society. Adult literacy programmes target adults whose literacy and numeracy skills do not match those at NFQ level 3 and are offered free-of-charge to any person aged 16 and over who fulfils the criteria. These programmes generally focus on learning outcomes at NFQ level 1-3. Minor awards11 at NFQ level 4-5 may also be provided.
Tuition is provided flexibly during the day or evening, either to groups or on a one-to-one basis, in traditional or atypical settings. Literacy programmes for people with disabilities also include the Deaf and people with specific learning disabilities.
Further information may be obtained from the AEGI or the adult education officer in the local ETB.
The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) operates a free-phone helpline and free-text service to provide information to adults with literacy difficulties.
NALA also provides distance learning initiatives including the online programme Write On.
Community education provides informal and non-formal education for adults whose needs have not been met through more formal provision. It aims to enhance learning, and foster empowerment and contribution to civic society.
Community education is provided though a range of providers, including independently managed not-for-profit groups and statutory organisations (such as ETBs) in a wide variety of settings including, community projects, resource centres and voluntary organisations nationwide.
Up to 140 community education providers are members of the Aontas community education network. Community education is open to all, but providers generally focus their programmes on people who experience disadvantage or have been out of education for some time, including people with disabilities. Diverse courses are offered to meet the needs of a diversity of learners inlcuding:
Courses leading to certification from NFQ level 1-4
Informal and non-formal courses which are not accredited
Introductory courses of one morning per week for eight weeks to full-time year-long programmes
Courses in everything from life-skills to professional qualifications
Community education is coordinated through locally based community education facilitators in the ETBs. More information on community education may be obtained by contacting local ETBs, the local adult education guidance service or Aontas.
Vocational training is provided by SOLAS and the Education and Training Boards (ETBs). The ETBs are responsible for management of training delivery.
Vocational training includes a range of training programmes that provide industry and occupation specific skills as well as preparatory training to enable unemployed people access job opportunities or progression opportunities to further/ higher education/training.
This training is primarily aimed at those who have lost their jobs, as well as those who find it difficult to enter or re-enter the labour market.
Job-seekers on these programmes, including people with disabilities, range from those with no qualifications to highly qualified learners requiring new skills.
Most training vocational training courses are certified under the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). Others are certified by recognised awarding bodies such as City and Guilds.
Vocational training programmes are delivered during the day, the evening and online. Programmes are provided through the SOLAS/ETB network of training centres, community training facilities and training organisations contracted for the purpose.
Vocational training programmes are open to all job seekers who meet the entry criteria. Any specialist equipment or adaptations needed for a person with a disability on a vocational training course will be arranged where possible and appropriate. Specialist vocational training (see below) is also provided for those who may need additional support.
Accessing Vocational Training Options
To access vocational training options, job seekers, including those with disabilities, must register with Intreo where all options can be explored. Intreo employment services officers give information, advice and guidance to all job seekers, including people with disabilities, on training and employment options including information about any entitlements to a training allowance and/or welfare payments. Additional support requirements on training courses may be identified as part of this process.
Specialist Training Provision
Some people with disabilities require a greater degree of support in pursuing suitable vocational training options. A range of specialist training providers is contracted by SOLAS/ETBs to deliver courses to meet this need. In general, the following three broad types of special training needs are addressed by specialist training providers:
Needs relating to access
Needs relating to training content and duration
Non-occupational training-related needs.
Specialist courses encompass introductory skills training (IST) and skill specific training (SST). These lead to awards at NFQ level 3-5.
Specialist training offers supports in the form of individualised training and progression plans, literacy and numeracy support and individualised career planning. Other features of specialist vocational training may include:
Additional training duration
Enhanced programme content
Trainer to learner ratio
Specialist qualifications of staff
Additional opportunities for assessment.
There are over 2,000 places on specialist training courses in about 50 locations countrywide to cater for people with disabilities. Specialist training includes in-centre, employer based and blended learning approaches to accommodate student needs.
Types of Vocational Training Programmes
The main types of vocational training programmes include:
Apprenticeship is the recognised means for training craftspeople
Specific skills training is intended to skill job seekers in specific areas of industry across a range of sectors. These courses take a few months or more to complete and are fully certified leading to a NFQ award or certification from a recognised external accredited body
Traineeships provide occupation-specific training and integrate formal training and workplace coaching with a host employer. All programmes lead to NFQ level 4-6 awards or certification from a recognised external accredited body.
Short modular type courses of about 10 weeks enable individuals to upgrade their skills and programmes and lead to awards on the NFQ or are externally certified.
Evening courses of typically 30 hours’ duration provide short upskilling modules
Blended learning courses are designed as a flexible response to the specific skills needs of job-ready individuals who require training interventions with certification to help them re-enter the labour market. These courses offer a range of online training with enhanced learner supports including telephone, email, e-tutor and instructor-led workshops.
Online learning caters for individuals who are IT literate and wish to work at their own pace and in their own time and have no requirement for additional supports. Learners can get more information and register online for these SOLAS e-college courses.
E-learning at the library. In partnership with the Library Council of Ireland this programme makes learning available to clients through their local library. The programme aims to provide local support to aid individuals to develop IT competence and skills.
MOMENTUM - Labour market education and training fund. As part of the Government’s policy statement on activation Pathways to Work, funding has been provided for training of those who are long-term unemployed, particularly for 18 months or more.
Local Training Initiative
Under the local training initiative (LTI), community and voluntary organisations may apply to local ETBs for grants to support projects which provide training and work experience. The LTI enables local organisations to carry out valuable and necessary projects of benefit to their communities, while at the same time training is provided for participants in areas related to the project so that they can go on to gain employment or progress to further training.
Unemployed people, including those with a disability, primarily those aged 16 to 35 and with no formal qualifications or incomplete post primary level qualifications are eligible to apply. Help is provided discreetly and sensitively to people with literacy difficulties who wish to improve these skills.
Rehabilitative Training and Adult Day Services
Some people with disabilities may have difficulty in achieving their goals through mainstream education and training services and need additional individualised support provided by the HSE in rehabilitative training and adult day services.
Rehabilitative training and adult day services are delivered by service providers in local centres either directly by the HSE or by organisations supported by the HSE. In 2008, a review of HSE funded adult day services found about 80 organisations were providing services to 25,000 service users in 800 locations across the State. These are provided for adults with the following disabilities:
Mental health difficulty
Autistic spectrum disorder
Life-changing illnesses such as heart attack and stroke
Applications for these services are made to the local HSE Disability Services. Places are for school leavers* and others with disabilities who need support to achieve their full potential and live as independently as possible. Applications are processed by the HSE disability services including the Occupational Guidance Service (OGS), following individual profiling and consultation. Enquiries on how to contact these services can also be made at the local HSE health centre.
(*In the case of students who need these services and who are leaving mainstrem or special school in any given year, application should be made before the end of Jnauary of the year in question. Closing dates and application arrangements are determined by the HSE)
Training allowances may be available on some rehabilitative training courses and more information is available from the local HSE Disability Services. Information about welfare payments is available from Intreo.
Rehabilitative training focuses on the development of life skills, social skills and basic work skills and aims to enhance the trainee's quality of life and general work capacity. The services provided vary in accordance with the needs of participants. Rehabilitative training is generally provided by the HSE or by specialist agencies on its behalf.
Rehabilitative training services aim to support people experiencing barriers to participation in occupational and vocational areas of life and in social opportunities in their communities. This training facilitates participants to sample a range of rehabilitative options and to develop the skills, knowledge, confidence and resources to access employment, further training and opportunities in the wider community. Places for these approved programmes are allocated by the HSE Occupational Guidance Service and usually take from two to four years. NFQ major and minor awards at level 1-3 and other certification are available for these training programmes.
Participants are expected to have the potential to participate and engage effectively in small group activity with a low level of supervision. Following an initial course determination period of three months, each participant is facilitated to develop an individual training plan to follow for the duration of the programme.
If you have a disability, you will be assessed by your Local Health Office to establish what level of rehabilitative training is appropriate for you. The HSE has teams of guidance counsellors who offer information, advice and guidance on HSE training and sheltered work services.
The National Learning Network (NLN) is the training and Education division of the Rehab Group. It is Ireland's largest non-Government training organisation with centres in almost every county in Ireland. Each year, 5,000 people, including many who may otherwise find it difficult to gain employment, come to learn and study with NLN and to develop the skills to move forward with their careers.
No fees apply to any National Learning Network courses. There are also no formal entry requirements, although students must be aged over 16. Students may also be admitted to courses continually during the year.
The continuum of services for people with disabilities includes:
Sheltered Work (Therepeutic, Commercial, and 'Like Work')
Supported employment is a model used to assist people with disabilities to find, secure and maintain jobs in the open labour market. It is based on the principle that everyone can, and has the right to work. It was first developed in North America in the 1970s.
Supported employment provides people with disabilities with opportunities to gain the skills needed to successfully access real employment in a sector of their choice. It is designed to be person-centred, and is based around the concept of choice and on-going, professional support. Individuals are offered support through every step of the job seeking process, including support when employment had been secured.
Supported Employment typically involves four key strands which are normally carried out by a single individual, often referred to as a Job Coach. These strands involve:
A needs assessment with the individual, to identify the type of employment that is most suitable to him/her
Job sourcing and development involving contact with local employers and job analysis
Matching the job seeker with a suitable employer
Providing the employee with necessary support and coaching in the workplace. The amount of support provided should decrease over time as the employee learns the skills required for the job and adapting to the workplace
In addition, provision of support by the Job Coach is helpful, to both the employer and co-workers, in facilitating the integration of the employee with a disability into the workplace. The assignment of a co-worker to act as a mentor will optimise the integration of the employee with a disability.
The provision of supported employment has been mainstreamed in more recent years and is provided by the Department of Social Protection. A number of supported employment agencies have now emerged nationwide, and operate under the National Supported Employment Programme. The model is designed to allow supported employment agencies to work together to form a network from which to provide one on one support to participants in the programme.
There are a variety of schemes on offer from the various agencies around the country.
Sheltered work gives people with disabilities the opportunity to take part in daily work in a sheltered setting where they receive personal support services. Trainees may produce goods that have a commercial value.
Rehabilitation Training Allowance
Trainees in foundation training and sheltered workshops retain their social welfare payments, usually Disability Allowance, and also receive a training allowance of €31.80 a week.
This allowance was to be cut to €20 a week in January 2012, but the €31.80 rate is being maintained, pending a review of the service.
The CRC workshop is an integral part of the rehabilitation and work activation programme at the centre. The workshop provides training and sheltered employment for adults with disabilities.
All training and employment is conducted in an industrial setting and is aimed at developing work habits and skills by using standard industrial practices. The workshop specialises in commercial printing, desktop publishing, the manufacture of handmade lampshades and other craft and assembly activities. It has a reputation for high quality. A skilled instructor is responsible for supervision and production in each area.
Specific Skills Training: In-plant printing and desktop publishing courses are also provided. These are supported by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and certified by FAS and City and Guilds
Sheltered Work - Therapeutic, Commercial or 'LikeWork'
Sheltered work for people with disabilities is provided (or arranged) by the HSE. Sheltered work gives people with disabilities the opportunity to take part in daily work in a sheltered setting where they receive personal support services. Trainees may produce goods with a commercial value. In general, this is not regarded as standard employment in the sense that the employees are not insurably employed and are not entitled to the full range of employee benefits.
The Reasonable Accommodation Fund
The Department of Social Protection has the responsibility for providing labour market services for disabled people, assisting them with finding paid employment or preparing them for employment through a training or employment programme.
Under the Reasonable Accommodation Fund, the DSP can also help the employer to take appropriate measures to enable a person with a disability impairment to have access to employment by providing the following grants and schemes:
Speedpak is a social enterprise providing meaningful work experience and training programme for people who are unemployed, equipping participants with the skills necessary for progression to the workplace or further training