By Zara Hill
Whether you wish to start your career, return to work following a career break or even change your career path, new local business CareerFIT offers a range of consultations and workshops specifically designed to guide you toward a more fulfilling and rewarding career. Based at the Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre as well as locations in Athlone and Roscommon, CareerFIT hopes to generate employment in the local area through the promotion of lifelong learning and career advice consultations.
Having taken a career break to travel across the United States and the UK for many years, Cork native and CareerFIT founder, Mary Cronin decided to return to Ireland and settle here in the midlands in 2008. Realising her own situation – wishing to return to work following her career break - and acknowledging the changing world we live in, where jobs for life are now a thing of the past, Mary quickly saw a need for adult career services in the area and with the support of her family CareerFIT was born in 2015. Graduating from the University of Derby with a first class honours degree in Psychology, as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Adult Guidance and Counselling from the National University of Ireland Maynooth,
Mary felt that while there are some career supports out there for adults, few supports are designed to meet individual needs. ‘’My main motivation for setting up my own careers counselling practice was that it would enable me to work with each individual to find a solution that is best for them’’ explained Mary. Seeing great potential in Ballinasloe, Mary recently decided to establish CareerFIT in the Enterprise Centre. ‘’I felt that many people here and in the surrounding areas would benefit from the services we provide’’ remarked Mary. Like many towns across Ireland, Ballinasloe has been affected by the most recent economic recession in terms of unemployment and according to career expert Mary, ‘’the psychological impact still lingers and inhibits people from moving forward in their careers’’. She added ‘’people are still being cautious when making career choices. There is a sense that we should be grateful for any job and job security. Security is valued and change is feared’’.
Mary acknowledges the challenges faced by those who wish to return to work following a career break. ‘’People often feel they have lost their skills or that they can no longer identify with the ‘’working person’’ image. There is also a loss of confidence and selfesteem’’, added Mrs. Cronin who believes CareerFIT can offer adults much-needed support in these difficult situations. Mary encourages adults in the locality to avail of the great services provided by CareerFIT, suggesting that the benefits are significant and can improve many aspects of life. ‘’Most people will work for about 50 years of their lives, so it is important to be happy in what you do. If not, it will impact negatively on other areas of life such as relationships and personal interests’’.
The core services offered by CareerFIT include: Career Consultation, CV and Interview Preparation and After Support. Mary hopes to build up a client base in Ballinasloe over the coming year and looks forward to her workshops that are coming up in September. To avail of the services provided by Career FIT, contact Mary on 086 3701791 or email, email@example.com. For more information, visit her newly launched website, www.career-fit.ie.
By Zara Hill
A carpenter by trade, Aughrim native Lorcan Mitchell has set his sights on a new business venture and hopes to get the community on board – introducing The ‘’Mitchell Drum’’. Lorcan first discovered his creative flare while making an electric guitar for his Leaving Cert woodwork project in Garbally College.
Combining his love of music and carpentry, Lorcan now hopes to make a career making what he describes as ‘’an abbreviation of the Cajon Drum’’. Pronounced ‘ca-hoon’, the Cajon is a drum made out of plywood – an instrument you sit on and tap to make a drum-like sound. Travelling to the Philippines as a volunteer following a devastating typhoon that struck the area in 2013, Lorcan began making smaller versions of the Cajon Drum and soon began a music school - giving the children drums to share and practice on.
On returning to Ireland, Lorcan continued designing the instruments and now he hopes to promote the Mitchell Drum, beginning of course with his local area. With his new website and business now up and running – Anam Ceol – Lorcan hopes to visit the local schools to exhibit his instruments and set up drum and music circles in town. The former Battle of the Bands participant remarked, ‘’my fondest memories as a young lad involved my siblings and I knocking on doors on St. Stephen’s Day, singing songs’’.
Lorcan is now making Mitchell drums full time in his workshop in Aughrim and welcomes people to come and try one if they are interested. To promote his new business, Anam Ceoil, Lorcan is also willing to do school presentations and donate some instruments to get children started with music. For more information, visit Lorcan’s brand new website www.anamceol.com or contact Lorcan on 085 7354030.
By Zara Hill
The Annual Meeting of Ballinasloe Area Community Development reviewed a number of current community projects including Life Magazine, the Town Benchmarking Project, BEST and the launch of Ballinasloe.ie. The AGM took place and welcomed special guest, Minister Ann Phelan. A number of local Council and Oireachtas members were also in attendance on the night, as well as many business and community activists. Guests from the Burren Lowlands Development Company, Loughrea Chamber of Commerce and Galway Rural Development also attended.
BACD Manager, Lyn Donnelly presented the occupancy statistics of the Enterprise Centre. Figures showed that the Centre is currently 98% occupied, facilitating 17 Enterprises and employing 196 people. According to Lyn; ‘’the only available space is for hot-desking (shared office space, available to rent on an hourly, daily or weekly basis).’’ With an annual turnover of €245,446 and a total expenditure of €229,693, the BACD offers services for entrepreneurship including; advice and guidance for entrepreneurs, affordable rental rates through hot desks, meeting and training rooms, access to enterprise support agencies and networking events.
Secondly reviewed at the meeting was the successful completion of four volumes of Life Magazine. Volume 5 was launched in February this year and to date a total of 111 subscribers – made up of different businesses and local groups have supported the project. Volume one of Life magazine saw the distribution of 27,000 hard copies and 1,500 copies of the magazine online. This has since expanded and Volume 4 saw the distribution of 37, 500 hard copies and a much increased 21, 500 online copies of the community magazine.
On reviewing the successful completion of the Town Benchmarking project – a project undertaken to understand, measure, evaluate and improve the economic viability of the town centre - Lyn mentioned the Project funding partners; BEC, Galway County Council, Ballinasloe Credit Union and Ballinasloe Chamber of Commerce and thanked them for their support. Works carried out by the Town Benchmarking Project to date have been the People & Places Partnership – with an ethos of ‘’Putting the life back into our towns and cities’’ – and the establishment of a 13 member Town Team. The Town Team have been working to ‘’revitalize the town and its hinterland, enabling it to achieve its true potential, by creating awareness of all the positive assets we currently have in the townland and identifying new initiatives that will enhance and expand on what we already have.’’
The team also hopes to continue to encourage positive suggestions and interaction from all local groups and prioritise attainable objectives that will rejuvenate the town. Other upcoming projects for the town team were announced as; a Boating Regatta, Christmas Festival and Beara-Breffini and Hymany Way upgrade projects. Minister Phelan congratulated and commended all involved in the different projects and groups in the area and enthused that Ballinasloe should be showcased throughout the country, to highlight how rural towns can ensure their vibrancy and economic viability.
Galway County Council funded the upgrading of the Hot Desk Facility at the Enterprise Centre, as well as the Benchmarking Project. The Ballinasloe Chamber of Commerce were thanked for their support with the Benchmarking Project, while it was recognised that the Credit Union supported the BEST competition, the benchmarking project and the training room upgrade. Enterprise Ireland was also mentioned for the provision of a BDM Grant. Future plans for BACD include sustaining occupancy levels, raising the profile of the centre, increasing membership and engagement within the community and finally to continue business development work. For further details about development companies plans contact Lyn Donnelly in Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre 090 9646516
By Zara Hill
Budding entrepreneur, Katie O’Sullivan from Holy Rosary Secondary School is the lucky winner of the seventh annual BEST Competition and the top prize of €1,000. She made it all the way to the final, impressing judges with her clever innovation: ‘’Snap & See” 3D Lenses.
With huge participation from three of the local schools – Holy Rosary Mountbellew, Scoil Mhuire and Garbally College – this year’s judging panel (John Power, Gerry Kelly and Pat Ward) had the difficult task of choosing the overall winner from 80 entries. Katie was thrilled to win the competition, saying: ‘’it’s fantastic. I genuinely didn’t expect to win anything but it was definitely a pleasant surprise.’’
A member of the BEST judging panel for the past few years, John Power said he was impressed by the 14 final projects that excelled in terms of ‘’quality and preparation’’. ‘’Like a lot of good ideas, Katie’s is a remarkably simple idea. 3D is now very common and most of the hit movies in recent years have 3D Versions. 3D TV is at the early stage of development, but is certainly growing. Katie has developed a Prototype clip on 3D lens – similar to clip on sunglasses. We believe customers will love them”, said John. Katie came up with the idea of ‘’Snap & See’’ while on a trip to the cinema to see a 3D movie in Killarney with her parents Stephen and Ann from Ballagh, Menlough. ‘’I wasn’t wearing my contact lenses so I had to force the 3D glasses over my own pair for the entire movie. It was uncomfortable and inconvenient so I decided to try and come up with a solution,’’ remarked Katie.
Katie’s Business teacher, Ms Burke worked with her and the other participating students in the school to produce their prototypes and help them prepare their presentations. Hazel Burke remarked: ‘’the BEST competition is a fantastic opportunity for students to brainstorm business ideas and look for gaps in the market. Katie’s idea is such a brilliant one that solves an everyday problem for people with glasses. As a teacher, I loved getting to hear all of the students’ ideas and see how they developed them throughout the course of the competition.’’
For Katie, the most enjoyable part of the competition was discussing her idea with teachers, students and other people.‘’It was nice to see people’s reactions and listen to their opinions on my product’’, remarked the aspiring journalist. Having won the top prize of €1,000, Katie remarked: ‘’no new clothes I’m afraid. Instead it’s all going into my Credit Union account and will probably stay there until after I leave school.’’ This year’s competition was sponsored by the Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre (BEC) and the Credit Union. For more about the 2015 BEST Competition, including a list of the other prize winners, projects and the after story video, visit our blog at ballinasloelife.wordpress. com.
By Zara Hill
It’s not every day that an Olympic Champion is in town, so when boxing hero Katie Taylor arrived at Ardscoil Mhuire in March to surprise TY student Stephanie O’Halloran, there was tremendous excitement all around. Little did Stephanie know, she was about to be crowned SKY Sports ‘’Living for Sports Irish Student of the Year.’’ Stephanie from Brackernagh was chosen to take part in her school’s Sky Sports; ‘Living for Sport’ project in 2013, following the tragic passing of her father. The initiative of the award is to celebrate the outstanding achievements of students who have gained confidence and life skills as a result of their involvement in sport. Beginning in 2013, Stephanie was one of 20 girls from her class in Ardscoil Mhuire who took part in the programme. Through hard work and dedication, she was selected as the Irish ‘Student of the Year’ by a panel of judges for her participation in the SSLFS programme that helped her to overcome a challenging time in her life.
Throughout the programme Stephanie organised successful sporting events for children with learning disabilities both in her school and in Garbally College. She described this as a great experience, signifying the incredible journey she has made. ‘’I loved organising these events. It was so cool seeing people have fun doing something that we organised. I also gained confidence speaking in front of people.’’ Stephanie also had the opportunity to travel to the SSLFS live event in Dublin in April where she and her friend Aisling encouraged primary school children to participate in new sports. It is easy to understand why this inspirational girl was chosen as the Irish Sky Sports Living for Sports representative. However, when Olympic Champion and Sky Academy Ambassador Katie Taylor came to surprise her in the middle of a school quiz, Stephanie was completely overwhelmed. ‘’I couldn’t believe that an Olympic Gold medallist was in my school. I was shaking. It was so cool to get a selfie with her and she told me to just keep doing what I’m doing.’’ In a Sky interview following the big surprise, Katie Taylor described the local student as ‘’a girl full of confidence’’ before adding, ‘’she was born for greatness’’. On being announced as Ireland’s SSLFS representative, Stephanie flew to London for the Official Awards ceremony. ‘’London was so fun. We got a tour around the Sky Sports News Headquarters and met some of the Sky Sports athlete mentors. I also got to hold Michael McKillops Paralympic Gold Medals’’, she added proudly.
Stephanie’s success story has been the talk of the school according to her teacher Karen Usher who initiated the programme in 2013. ‘’The whole Sky Sports Living for Sport experience has had a huge impact on Ardscoil Mhuire in general. All of the pupils involved in school sport had the wonderful opportunity to meet former British heavy-weight boxer, Dermot Gascoyne and the Irish 400m Hurdles Champion Thomas Barr.’’ Karen added, ‘’the highlight of our involvement in SSLFS of course, was our very own Stephanie O’Halloran being nominated for the SSLFS Student of the Year Award by Dermot Gascoyne.
It was a huge honour for Stephanie and very exciting to have Sky in the PE hall for a day, filming Stephanie and her project group.’’ Karen has been involved in the SSLFS projects for the last two years and has seen how the programme has benefited over 40 pupils in the school. Stephanie has been recognised as a true role model by her peers, who recently elected her to become the Student Council Representative for her class. Karen Usher said; ‘’It’s a testament to Stephanie how she took the skills she learned and applied them to her own life. Her increase in confidence, self-esteem and happiness is not only noticeable in the club, but also in the classroom and school corridors.’’ The entire school community is proud of Stephanie and her great achievement.
Stephanie’s class tutor, Ms Hackett describes Stephanie as ‘’a happy go lucky child’’ who ‘’always seems to be smiling and having fun with her class mates.’’ Her maths teacher Mr Hardiman remarked; ‘’she is always pushing herself and her confidence has improved greatly. She is extremely well liked in her class by all.’’ Stephanie is ‘’a lovely student’’ according to history teacher Ms Shields, while Claire Dempsey her English teacher believes she has really ‘’come out of her shell’’. Other words used by teachers and friends to describe Stephanie were; polite, helpful and always pleasant – an A+ performance all around. Stephanie is considering pursuing a course in Photography once she finishes Secondary School – however, for now she plans to enjoy the rest of TY and continue to grow in confidence
If you have any news items about Ballinasloe, please use this link to contact us