Maura Horkan reports from students on two courses at the Open Training


Fourteen students on the National Certificate in Applied Social Studies (Rehabilitation) course with the Open Training College geared themselves up for three days of intensive workshops on ‘learning styles and systematic instruction’. What ??? Read on ….

The workshops were facilitated in a relaxed and informal way by Richard Harris, Principal Lecturer at Bolton Institute, and Dr Robert Jones of the University of Wales (Bangor). Robert is a clinical psychologist, but the students didn’t know that he’s a Black Belt in both Judo and Aikido. They soon found out!

Katrina Donovan, with the Brothers of Charity Services in Ennis, describes how the OTC students learned about task analysis (breaking down a task into small steps so that someone can learn the task more easily): ‘Robert Jones demonstrated an Aikido move (similar to Judo), with help from Daniel, a student who also practises Aikido. We all wondered what this had to do with assisting people to learn tasks. We had to watch carefully and break the Aikido move down into as many steps as possible—some students counted as many as nine! I enjoyed watching them, until it was my turn to get up and do it! Normally I hate being put on the spot, but everyone had to. It was very interesting to watch a task, then to do it, step back and break it down. Then we had to teach it to two other people, based on our set of steps—that was great craic and such an eye-opener—I found it was easier to teach other people after watching and participating in the skill myself- I can certainly apply that to work situations, helping clients with learning difficulties to learn new tasks!’

Katrina says she is doing the course because it is accredited by the NCEA and well-recognised in the disability area. ‘It’s fascinating to see something in the manuals that I am already using at work and to learn exciting new concepts that I can introduce for the first time.’


Twenty-four students on the OTC course for the National Diploma in Training and Education in Supported Employment were treated to an intensive and exciting two-day workshop on how to market their supported employment services to employers. Students shared their questions and ideas on how to prepare and plan to meet the ‘dreaded employers’, described as daunting, scary, professional, busy people—although other students added that some are very supportive and nice!

There were lots of questions from the floor. ‘Do we have to shout our message from the rooftops?’ ‘Will we have to follow a garden centre manager all over the centre in among the plants to get his attention?’ ‘If I’m early, will I look too eager?’ ‘If I dress up in a suit will I put them off, if they’re wearing jeans and wellies?’

So, how do you encourage and facilitate personnel who are learning for the first time to step out into the busy and professional business community to promote their service and to develop their own professional skills? The Open Training College enlisted the services of Catherine and Alan from the training consultancy Optima. Students learned first to look critically at their supported employment service and to examine its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT techniques). This helped students to realise that they have a very marketable service and to identify where it was most needed in the business community. The students got great confidence in realising that ‘Yes, I have a really good and much-needed service to market’. Then they learned how to match their service to suit what the employer needed. This seemed a magical solution—it enables students to answer any objections that the employer might come up with. One student commented, ‘I never realised that if an employer is objecting it’s a good thing, because it means he/she is interested in discussing the idea—before this I would have taken an objection as a signal of no interest!

One student summed up the workshop by saying, ‘I found it very helpful; it has given me the confidence to be able to meet and arrange more fruitful meetings with potential employers.’ Our supported employment students are an amazing bunch of people—they’re not only trainers, employment supporters and job coaches; they’re also sales reps, marketers and public representatives.

The Open Training College are currently accepting applications for the following courses: National Certificate in Applied Social Studies, National Diploma in Applied Social Studies (Rehabilitation), Diploma in Training and Education in Supported Employment and Certificate in First-line Management. Enquiries to Maura Horkan at the Open Training College, National Management Centre, Sandyford Road, Dublin 16 (tel: 01-295 9788; email: