Before the pandemic started, our EPIC training took place in our Training Centre in the Phibsborough Tower and most of our interactions with participants happened face-to-face. When the lockdown started, we decided to try to move the training and other services online, though we were not sure if we would be able to replicate the engagement and support levels we offer our participants in a virtual setting. Two months later, we have run one onsite and online mixed training and a fully virtual one successfully and we have recently started a second virtual training.
We are finding that our participants are grateful that, under the current circumstances, they can attend the training online. Livia, an EPIC online participant, said: ‘I improved my confidence to apply for job positions in Dublin and I could interact with my class in this tough period of Covid19. It helped me to stay focused on my professional goals.’ For some participants, the pandemic has offered them an opportunity to think about their careers and with our support, look for a more meaningful job. Another online participant said: ‘Even though we are facing hard times, this course has given me hope of a brighter future, Maeve was excellent at delivering this course and increasing our motivation as well as all the staff was so considerate and caring with all of us.’
Moving online has also been an interesting experience for our trainer Maeve. There have been challenges along the way, especially with technology and ‘building relationships not in person with a team of diverse people’. But she also mentions unexpected bonuses: ‘The most important for me has been to be able to reach more isolated areas and people with families or working who may not have been able to do training in Dublin 7.’ Maeve also mentions personal benefits: ‘For me too, my lockdown was made so much easier getting to connect with and get to know 16 new people every day while working from home.’
Connection with our participants was and still remains a fundamental piece of EPIC, and through our work during these two months, we have learned that we can still be close to people and support them even if we are not physically present. We are deeply moved by the gratitude and lovely messages we have received from our participants, old and new, during these months. Realising that our work is more meaningful and necessary than ever has been incredibly rewarding and has helped to keep us motivated during these uncertain times.
As a final note, we would like to make a special mention to the businesses and the volunteers that have been supporting us during the pandemic. We want to thank Accenture, Microsoft, Autodesk and Cpl for delivering online workshops and doing mock interviews with our participants.
If you are interested in supporting our Employment Programmes, please contact Caitríona Mac Aonghusa at firstname.lastname@example.org