A BOUNDLESS RESOURCE

15 March 2013 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The members of Co Monaghan Vocational Education Committee on Monday completed their ongoing inspection of the component buildings of the new Knockaconny Education Campus with a tour of the resplendent Monaghan Institute of further education centre.

To finally see the training provision supplied by the Institute, formerly MIFET, accommodated in purpose build surroundings of a surpassing standard was a highly significant moment for the Committee.

And the occasion was a deeply meaningful one for the Institute’s Director Dr Fiona McGrath, whose address to the VEC at the outset of the Committee’s monthly meeting communicated something of the emotional reaction staff and students must be experiencing upon their arrival in such a magnificent harbour after a 20-year odyssey upon the uncertain seas of extemporised accommodation.

The development by the VEC of a meaningful further education sphere in Co Monaghan has been a difficult, incremental process that nonetheless has produced a consistent standard of academic and vocational accreditation by students – yearly demonstrated at a graduation ceremony which itself has burgeoned over time to now stand as one of the most important events on the county’s education calendar.

Given this background, it would be easy to perceive the realisation of the new Monaghan Institute, and perhaps the entire Education Campus project, as an end in itself, a summit of achievement, the stopping-off point of an arduous journey.

To do so would be to ignore the massive potential this new facility possesses as a future contributor to the economic and social development of Co Monaghan.

By adopting a proposal at Monday’s meeting to seek a meeting with the executive of the IDA and Enterprise Ireland to discuss how the Institute can supply the training needs not merely of existing employers in the region but of potential new investment, the VEC members demonstrated cognisance of the need to immediately build on what has been achieved.

Monaghan Institute’s capacities certainly offer a refutation of one of the main arguments traditionally advanced to explain Co Monaghan’s paucity of inward investment – the lack of ready access to suitable training resources.

As the Institute works towards developing outreach linkages with further and higher education providers, the availability of third level education in Co Monaghan will come closer to realisation – and those in charge of directing industrial investment to locations in this country will be further challenged to amend their traditional stance on this county’s capacity to accommodate new employment, even in those spheres at the cutting edge of technological and communications development.

But there is a challenge here too for the local community to maximise the potential of the new education facilities that have arrived on their doorstep.

There is an unprecedented opportunity for imminent school-leavers in Co Monaghan to ‘shop local’, as it were, when filtering the range of further learning and training opportunities within their compass.

We would direct them and their parents to the perceptive assessment made by VEC member Martha Williamson Hunter at Monday’s meeting (see story, page one) of both the academic and personal development benefits of the further education pathway as a precursor to the achievement of scholarly or employment ambitions.

An important marketing task in relation to the Monaghan Institute’s expanded capacities now falls to the VEC to undertake, and in this context opportunities for the public to see at first hand the nature and extent of the now functioning Education Campus environment should be provided.
Despite the local media focus on what has been taking place at the former Monaghan Military Barracks site, it is doubtful if the public at large are yet fully aware of the nature and extent of this development.

But maximising the potential of the new campus is not a task lying solely on the VEC’s shoulders.
We would exhort our major local manufacturers, food producers and commercial concerns to engage with the new Institute on the development of training courses tailored to their existing and future needs – and there are many other opportunities for fruitful linkages involving our cultural, medical, commercial and sporting sectors, among others, waiting to be explored.

Co Monaghan now has an educational resource of boundless potential – we should ensure that it is utilised to the maximum.

SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE

Defining the Irish national character has always been a problematic preoccupation.
The wealth of words produced in poem and prose, history and commentary by writers at home and abroad down the generations has produced a kaleidoscopic picture of Irishness, not all of it laudatory and none of it earning uncontested authority.

But one common thread runs through it all – the nation’s zest for celebration.
Our enthusiasm for our nationality is traditionally given full rein in the days to come, when the feast day of our patron St Patrick brings us onto the streets of our villages, towns and cities to watch or participate in the parades and festivities that bear his name.

It has been argued that we do the great saint scant honour in some of the ways we mark his day, that his missionary Christian example demands a more meditative and spiritual commemoration than the thirst for revelry it is wont to ignite in our breasts.

But even if we concede this point, an occasion which moves us to express pride in our national identity and which briefly binds us as a people retains significant value.
All across our county, communities have been uniting to organise and prepare the parades and associated events which will unfold over the coming weekend.

The cost of remunerating such effort if it was expended in a workplace environment would be huge – yet it is done for little or no tangible reward.

The higher dividend that motivates the volunteers does seem linked to celebration, but not the self-indulgent kind.

The community-minded people behind our St Patrick’s Day events obviously take great pride in their home place, and want to honour and advertise what is good in their locality to the wider world.

At a time when our collective spirits are battered and our morale low because of the economic ills that beset us, occasions such as St Patrick’s Day parades take on added importance.
Through them we communicate to each other and the watching world that we remain people of achievement and purpose – we add kindling to the spark of national fraternity that burns in each of us, and warm ourselves around a common hearth for a brief time.

It was probably never more necessary in this country to find reasons to be proud and hopeful.
There will be much to fuel pride and hope for the discerning eye to see in Co Monaghan this weekend, as a prodigious amount of local community endeavour is expended to create occasions of great spectacle and diversion.

The object is certainly to entertain – but our St Patrick’s parades and events will hopefully also make Co Monaghan people think positively about ourselves and our capacity to achieve, and take away some inspiration for the challenging times that face us.

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