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Downpatrick's Marieanne takes Essential Skills title

A Downpatrick woman has been crowned Essential Skills Learner of the Year at this year’s Essential Skills Awards.
Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Marieanne O’Shea was presented with the award at a glittering ceremony held at Hillsborough Castle. In addition, Marieanne received the Co. Down Essential Skills Learner of the Year 2011 award and also received a highly commended certificate in the Essential Skills ICT awards.

As a mature student and mother with a part-time job, Marieanne has had to overcome a number of obstacles, including family commitments and illness, on her learning journey. Despite this, Marieanne’s attendance and work at Southern Regional College in Newcastle were exemplary and, combined with an infectious enthusiasm for study, resulted in her achieving an Essential Skills ICT level 2 qualification. Marieanne has continued to follow an Access to Healthcare course as she works towards her ambition to become a midwife.

Commenting on her learning experience, Marieanne said: “Being back in education has given me a focus and a thirst for learning. I can honestly say that enrolling in the classes was the best decision I have ever made.”

Employment and Learning Minister, Danny Kennedy, congratulated Marieanne and said: “The commitment to learning shown by Marieanne, in the most difficult of circumstances, is an example to us all. She is a worthy winner of the Essential Skills Learner of the Year Award.”

The Minister went on to highlight the benefits of improved Essential Skills, including greater self-confidence, improved job prospects and career opportunities. He said: “To date, over 56,000 learners have gained almost 100,000 qualifications through my Department’s free Essential Skills provision and, in doing so, have helped to build better futures. In the current economic climate, where employers need a workforce that is literate, numerate and confident with ICT, the need for investment in Essential Skills has never been greater.”

The Minister continued: “It is vital that we bring learning to the vast majority of adults already in employment, many of whom have moved beyond the reach of the traditional education system. A continuing commitment to Essential Skills provision will deliver the workplace skills which are essential for both economic growth and personal progression and are necessary for people to be able to adapt to change.”

Speaking at the event, Catherine Bell, Deputy Secretary at the Department for Employment and Learning, said: “Everyone honoured today exemplifies the commitment and dedication of learners right across Northern Ireland. The Essential Skills Awards are a fitting acknowledgement of their efforts and I congratulate each of the winners on their success.”

This is the fourth year of the Awards, which are designed to recognise and celebrate outstanding achievements in literacy, numeracy and ICT learning. In addition to the overall Learner of the Year award, six regional award winners and 20 Highly Commended entries, an ICT award, a Trade Union award and an were presented. An Essential Skills Champion, in recognition of the outstanding contribution by an individual to the Essential Skills agenda, was announced and an award for Essential Skills Quality of Provision was also presented.

Notes to editors:

1. The fourth annual Essential Skills Awards took place on Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at Hillsborough Castle.

2. The winners were as follows:

  • County Antrim winner – Mark Roberts (Springvale Learning)
  • County Armagh winner –Martin O’Neill (Southern Regional College)
  • County Down winner –Marieanne O’Shea (South Eastern Regional College)
  • County Fermanagh joint winners – Leo Naan and Mary McElroy (South West College)
  • County Londonderry winner – Maureen Hill (Northern Regional College)
  • County Tyrone winner – Wilma Graham (First Steps Women’s Centre)
  • Trade Union Learner of the Year – Robert Thornton (Unite)
  • ICT Learner of the Year – Gloria Feenan O’Neill (South Eastern Regional College)

Essential Skills Champion In recognition of the outstanding contribution by an individual to the Essential Skills agenda

  • Nessa Skiffington – Tutor, South West College
  • Jayne Walkingshaw – Education Training Inspectorate

Essential Skills Quality of Provision Award In recognition of the highest level of Essential Skills training delivered by providers:

  • The Link Works, Newry

Overall Winner:

  • Marieanne O’Shea

3. More information on Essential Skills can be found on the nidirect websitelink to external website

4. All media queries should be directed to the Department for Employment and Learning Communications Branch on 028 9025 7466. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.