Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Portlaoise National Learning Network options student Serge, pictured volunteering at the 2022 Durrow Scarecrow Festival

A PORTLAOISE centre that has helped many local people find jobs will hold a public open day next week.

The National Learning Network (NLN) provides personalised education, training and development opportunities for people with disabilities or who need additional supports.

The NLN is part of a national organisation that says it has supported more than 2,400 people into employment since 2017.

The organisation has also helped a further 3,700 people to transition to a broad range of further training opportunities, with 50% progressing to third level colleges and universities.

The figures were released as NLN launched its inaugural national open day, which will be held on Wednesday 24 August at 11am at more than 30 NLN centres across the country, including Portlaoise.

The centre on the Dublin road provides certified training courses that offer nationally recognised qualifications, including QQI, ECDL and City and Guilds. These have helped  people with a disability and/or health conditions into employment with companies such as Facebook, eir, Ryanair, Mr Price and across the hospitality and tourism industry.

People attending NLN centres include people claiming any form of disability benefit, those recovering from an accident or injury, or living with mental health challenges, autism or learning disabilities.

After suffering a brain injury in 2015 following a fall from a horse and subsequently losing her job as a Montessori teacher, Wendy Newman began studying IT and office skills at NLN and is back in employment.

Wendy said: “I was lost. I thought my life had no meaning. I didn’t have a clue what I could do next. Then someone told me about NLN. From the minute I heard about it, I felt it was something that would suit me. If nothing else, it would get me out of bed, get me organised, encourage me to plan, and have a social life again.

“From the moment I walked in the door, I could see smiling faces and I knew this was right for me. My tutor knew about my fatigue and we chatted about how he could support me. He gave me a chair beside the door and said anytime you need to step out, please just do that. I have to say, that little bit of understanding made all the difference. It’s given me back my independence and I learned that I had something to offer.”

NLN works with all ages, from early school leavers to people aged 65. Staff are skilled in working with employers to help match students with the right employer and the right role.

Anyone who needs extra support to get into employment or further education is invited to drop into the centre during the open day.

National Learning Network is the education and training division of Rehab Group. People interested in attending the NLN Portlaoise Open Day are asked to email [email protected] or log on to

Director of learning Lucianne Bird said that, after more than two years of living with a pandemic, many people have new mental health issues such as living with long-Covid. The NLN can offer them life-changing courses to get back on track and access further and third level education, apprenticeships and employment.

She said: “If you have a disability, you are twice as likely to be unemployed in this country and this is unacceptable. At NLN we believe no one should be left behind and this is what our inclusive, equitable education and training model is all about.”





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