Upskilling During a Pandemic

Image of personSean Quinn is originally from Scotland and is Head of Sales at Highland Radio, having worked in sales and marketing for over twenty years, gaining huge business experience while working within the media, telecoms, financial and new business enterprise sectors. He thrives on challenges and achieving set out personal and business goals so during lockdown he set himself a challenge to upskill and re-educate himself. In this blog Sean shares his journey and experience of going back into education with our Further Education and Training (FET) Service.

Most of my working life has been spent in a fast-moving environment. Since leaving school (a very long time ago) I have only completed a couple of educational courses, so when I received information regarding Further Education and Training courses through the ETB, I was a little hesitant to put my name forward.  To set the scene: lockdown had just been announced (March 2020) and with that our lives changed but with the restrictions in place I found that I had time on my hands and pondered about what to do so I decided to sign up for the ETB’s Level 6 ILM Certificate in Leadership and Management. Typical of me though – I didn’t really read fully what the course was about, having initially thought it was for only four weeks (research and taking time to read things properly was never my strong point … that changed!). I was aware that due to COVID-19 there would be challenges ahead, but I was mindful that as a manager within Highland Radio, both myself and Highland would benefit from new skills that could potentially be picked up during the course.  What I didn’t realise is that I was about to start a journey of new learning that would not only re-energise my brain but more than that, would help with decision making and strategies within my day-to-day job.

To say I was nervous on the first day is an understatement – all learning had moved online so I had no idea what to expect.  I was greeted by tutor Gabrielle Gray, who straight away relieved the nerves and tensions of me and my fellow students by calmly talking us through was required throughout the twenty-week process. Gabby instantly reassured all of us that the help and support required would be there throughout … I was ready to begin!

The course was built on six modules all relating to business starting with writing for business, teaching me a formula for consistent report writing, something that definitely added value to me. The core of the modules covered topics such as motivating people, solving problems, making effective decisions, managing change, making presentations and developing leadership skills.

Although I have many years of practical experience within management, listening, understanding, researching and writing about theories and practical situations became the norm in all essays. I recall Gabby advising that the average word count per assignment should be 4,000 words and I thought wow, I will never manage that amount. However, as I completed module after module, I had to spend time reducing words instead of increasing … it is fair to say I was enjoying and embracing education.

As I progressed, I found that my news skills and learning were already starting to help in my day to day decision making.  I used the Managing Change module in real-time with an actual change process within the radio station; with the guidance of online classes and research, I implemented change to one of our product offerings.

As the twenty weeks elapsed and I finished my final module, I felt real satisfaction at having been able to complete the process. With such a time gap in learning I had my doubts as to whether I could go the distance and complete and pass the course.  I relied on support to get me to the finish line; my tutor Gabby was so helpful in guiding me in the right direction. There were a few times where I ‘hit the brick wall’, however, Gabby was there to advise and encourage me.  This without doubt helped me to refocus and is an integral reason for me succeeding and finishing the course.

I would recommend Donegal ETB to anyone: if you are thinking of going back to education it is well worth having a look into what the ETB’s FET Service has to offer. They are so professional in what they do, they take time to listen to their students and welcome feedback from all. I am so glad I answered the email and signed up to the diploma course – sincere thanks to all the staff at ETB.