IT’S A familiar story. A young student graduates with a good degree and can’t find work. Ends up swiping groceries through a checkout.
Ashford native, PJ O’Connell, was that soldier. Despite getting an arts degree, coming into the workplace in the middle of a recession meant there was nothing for him but emigration or a minimum wage job in a supermarket.
“Those years were horrendous. On a minimum wage, I couldn’t afford to drive or move out of home. I had thought I was going to get a job teaching but I was stuck,” he told the Limerick Post.
But as everyone knows, the Irish Mammy never stops looking out for her babies, and PJ’s mammy, Vera Lacey was the one to spot an opportunity for him in the free Springboard further education and qualification scheme.
“It was very intense but to say it has changed my life is an understatement,” 26-year-old PJ told the Limerick Post.
Having been interested in computers since he was a child, he took on a course that gave him the equivalent of a four-year degree in computer science in one year at the University of Limerick.
“You have to be motivated and stick to it but the Springboard course has made such a difference in my life,” he said.
“There was the computer part of it but they also gave us a great handle on employability skills, things like being active on Linkedin. Important stuff when you’re trying to be more employable.
“There was such a mix of people doing the course too – people my age and people in their sixties, looking to change career direction.”
After graduation PJ landed a job with QAD, the Castletroy-based provider of cloud-based enterprise resource software, and says it is his “dream job.
“Growing up, I always looked on work as something you had to do but I love every minute of being here. I have my own place, I’m on the road and doing something I love. I couldn’t be happier,” he said.
And as a bonus, PJ has been able to resume his interest in music, playing lead guitar with heavy-metal band, ‘Hedfuzy’, who have charted and are due to tour the UK shortly.
“I can do all of these things now because I have a job that pays and, better still, a job I love. Springboard did all that.”
what is springboard?
The Springboard+ up-skilling initiative in higher education offers free courses at certificate, degree and masters level leading to qualifications in areas where there are employment opportunities in the economy.Springboard+ offers over 9,000 free places on 282 courses leading to awards at certificate, degree and post-graduate level. The majority of courses are part-time for a maximum of 12 months and are open to all eligible applicants whether they are Employed, Unemployed or a Returner.It is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF programme for employability, inclusion and learning.Details at: https://springboardcourses.ie/