17 January 2019 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The launch at Combilift in Monaghan on Monday of the new OEM or Original Equipment Manufacturing apprenticeship initiative marks both a significant advancement in the development of training opportunities for young people but also an important shift in the way in which the apprenticeship option is regarded and presented.

The hosting of the event at the global headquarters of one of Co Monaghan’s most eminent and successful business concerns was appropriate. Combilift have, in concert with the Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board, done much to mould and refine the modern apprenticeship and traineeship model that is becoming an increasingly important facet of the approaches to meeting skills gaps in our growing and ever-diversifying economy.

Combilift and other Monaghan companies such as Monaghan Mushrooms were quick to recognise the potential of having such a first-class training facility as the Monaghan Institute on their doorstep, and the advantages of working with them to develop programmes to ensure that their human resources needs could be met from among the young local population by giving them the opportunity to participate in training specifically tailored to their specific needs while at the same time gaining valuable factory floor experience preparatory to taking up a position of employment at the conclusion of their education.

This collaboration between local education and industry was identified by the former Chief Executive of the ETB Martin O’Brien as key to maximising the potential of the Monaghan Education Campus development which was acquired for the former Monaghan Military Barracks headquarters at Knockaconny. Mr O’Brien’s vision has been honoured and nurtured by his successor John Kearney to the extent that several national training programmes have been conceived and located at the campus and templates for training have been set that are now becoming implemented across the country as businesses in other locations recognise the benefits of forging collaborative connections with their local centres of further education and training.

In the process, Co Monaghan has exerted a powerful influence on the reinvigoration of the apprenticeship and traineeship concepts. They stand now as a very viable option for young people to consider as they contemplate the progression from the world of learning to the world of work, and the range of programmes available in this area has grown to encompass much more than the traditional crafts and trades to which this form of training was once confined. Apprenticeships and traineeships have now become established as important staging posts in the ladder of progression in academic qualification – and, in a modern world denoted by the need for people to change careers often more than once in their working lives, are fast becoming regarded as a very valuable component of a CV, reflective of the possession of the highly transferable skills of technical aptitude, discipline and adaptability.

Co Monaghan can be justly proud of the formative role it has played and is continuing to play in the esteeming of apprenticeships. As we brace ourselves for the Brexit fallout, the advanced state of development of our modern manufacturing training programmes and their inherent adaptability is another important resource we can call upon in the Border region in particular to ensure that we can, in adherence to the Shakespearean advice, reason with the worst that may befall.

The meeting held by Sinn Féin in Monaghan Town last week to explore the theme of ‘A Future for Monaghan Hospital?’ demonstrated that the improvement of hospital services in our locality is still a matter of significant public concern.

Out of the meeting came a strong appeal from longserving Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin – a battle-hardened veteran of the long hospital fight – for other political parties and future election candidates to stand with his own party in presenting a united front towards securing meaningful service restoration at a facility which stands as a sad exemplar of the debilitating effects of the rationalisation trends that have taken a grip of Irish health policy over the past decades.

In what manner the SF gauntlet is picked up or sidestepped by other political interests as we approach May’s local and European elections, and a General Election at some as yet indeterminate point in the medium future, will be studied with interest by the many local people who still feel aggrieved at the way in which their hospital was downgraded and who have had to suffer the consequences of worry, inconvenience and anxiety when the need has arisen for them to access treatment.

The SF exercise will undoubtedly contribute to placing the hospital more to the forefront of the salient issues when the local and European election campaigns shortly move into fully functioning gear that has been the case over recent political contests. While the re-emergence of the issue will be perceived as an opportunity by some of those standing for election, and regarded as a painful nettle to grasp by others, it is undoubtedly a significant and timely happening.

The crisis situation afflicting the Irish hospital system can only be a source of deep national shame, exacerbated rather than palliated by the strong economic performance and restoration of national financial fortunes which the current Government keeps emphasising.

That smaller hospitals such as Monaghan should be given a greater role to play in alleviating the suffering of those consigned to trolleys in our overcrowded hospital wards is not just a statement of patent common sense – it is becoming an increasing moral imperative.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the powerful vested interests cited by SF MEP Matt Carthy as architects of Monaghan Hospital’s downfall and potentially intractable opponents of its resurrection continue to hold our Government Ministers in a vice grip of influence that is unaccountable in all senses of that word.

Otherwise, surely simple decency and humanity would prevail and Minister Simon Harris would follow through on his pronouncements not so long ago that the capacity of smaller hospitals must be utilised in order to deal with the overcrowding scandal.

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