Opportunities for All: PACTS (Partners Collaborating in Training for Individuals with Specific Learning Disabilities)
Institutional collaboration in assisting those with specific learning difficulties to progress to further education, training or employment.
The Ireland’s National Learning Network (NLN) has a remit to provide services for people with specific learning difficulties. In delivering these services the NLN became aware of certain difficulties experienced by some of its students in progressing to further education, training, or employment within a mainstream setting because of their specific learning difficulties and the lack of services to cater for their needs. The Institute of Technology Blanchardstown (ITB) in Dublin encountered similar difficulties and begun discussions with NLN with regard to addressing this issue for students with learning difficulties attending ITB courses.
Arising from this initiative, the NLN, the ITB and the Dyscovery Centre in Cardiff (Wales) began a collaboration to explore how individuals with specific learning difficulties could be provided with services which would facilitate their progression to further education, training or employment. This initiative also aimed to address issues around the lack of awareness and training for professionals, parents and employers. The partners subsequently decided to make a joint application under the Ireland-Wales Interreg IIIA programme for funding to support their work to collaboratively create mainstream networks to address these two key issues.
Access to education and employment
The aim of the project is to empower individuals with specific learning difficulties to achieve their potential. The project should increase access to third level education for individuals who may have conditions, which preclude them from achieving their goals academically. Specific objectives of the project include:
- To develop training and information materials, which can be disseminated to diverse populations including parents, teachers and employers within the designated area in Ireland and Wales.
- To host residential training and joint conference activities in Ireland and Wales which will focus on including all individuals, groups and organisations at statutory, government, public, and private levels to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by those with specific learning difficulties and the supports available.
- To disseminate the information materials designed to the above-mentioned Irish and Welsh populations.
- To positively promote and increase awareness in the employment market place of specific learning difficulties and the remedial actions available to facilitate the individual and benefit the employer.
- To provide training for trainers in the competencies needed to provide support to individuals with specific learning difficulties. This training will cascade through the networks involved in the project activities i.e. parents, schools and colleges, employers, voluntary and statutory bodies.
The project has succeeded in producing a wealth of information and training material, which is now available on the project website: www.pactsproject.com. A CD based training programme has also been launched and six residential workshops have been held in Ireland and Wales. A range of information has also been sent to over 1200 individuals and organisations to Ireland and Wales in the designated areas. A series training programmes have been undertaken with schools, colleges, training providers across the area. Parent training evenings have also been organised with the support of parent organisations.
The Dyscovery Centre in Wales is now delivering assessments on the part of JobCentre Plus as a mainstream activity. In Ireland, the collaboration between NLN and ITB on this project will ensure that individuals with specific learning difficulties attending both services will be provided with a high quality service, which will identify their needs and offer support and remediation. It is envisaged that this will result in a higher number of these individuals attending and completing their education and training and moving on to the workplace to a job, which reflects their potential.