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- Patrick Byrne - Introductory Skills Training
My name is Patrick Byrne and I’m 56 years of age. I was born and raised in Belfast, but have spent most of my adult life working as a welder and fabricator in cities and towns around Ireland.
I have dyslexia, which went undiagnosed for years and, as a result, I didn’t do well in school. I guess I was one of those children who slipped through the cracks and I ended up leaving school barely able to read and write. I was fortunate enough to secure an apprenticeship and, over the years, I worked steadily and hard. I even set up my own steel business during the height of the boom.
Things were looking good but then my world fell apart when the recession started to bite and my business started to suffer. But there was worse to come. Around the same time I was diagnosed with industrial asthma and told that I had to give up my job. My life went into a tail spin. I was in my fifties, with no formal education and no real prospects. My confidence and self-esteem hit a real low and I didn’t know what to do.
It was during a discussion with a young social worker that I first heard about National Learning Network. I investigated it further and realised that it was exactly what I needed. I was anxious to start as soon as possible so I ended up moving from Cavan to Tralee to attend the National Learning Network centre there.
The move was worth it. I started Introductory Skills Training at the centre in Tralee in and I took to it like a duck to water. Within three months, my confidence had started to return. It’s the only completely positive environment that I’ve ever been in. There was no negativity. The instructors believed in me and saw an ability that I didn’t even see in myself. It was through National Learning Network that I was able to meet with an Educational Psychologist and was at last diagnosed with dyslexia.
In addition to the wonderful instructors, I also got support from my fellow learners. It was so inspiring to meet students from all walks of life and to hear their stories. The group dynamic was brilliant and we were there to help each other through.
Introductory Skills Training is designed to provide people with the skills to make informed and realistic choices about their careers based on their own needs and strengths. Throughout my life, I have always been involved in community activities. It was while I was on work placement as part of the Introductory Skills Training that I first started to consider social work as a career. With support and encouragement from National Learning Network, I took the entrance examination for University College Cork and couldn’t believe it when they accepted me.
I’m coming to the end of my second year at UCC and I absolutely love it. I settled in so well. The time I spent in National Learning Network really prepared me for university life. I learned presentation and communication skills and how to work well as a member of a team.
I never dreamed that I could be here in university; it’s beyond my wildest dreams. And I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without National Learning Network. They believed in me and gave me the confidence to believe that I could learn and that I could achieve. I just can’t thank them enough.