Grange-man Dylan Kennedy is getting used to the world of customer service as a waiter and bartender thanks to the National Learning Network’s (NLN) Paces programme and the Turners Cross Tavern.
The programme supports young adults aged between 16 and 25 who may have left school early; have learning difficulties; or who may need additional support.
Many of the students have not got much by way of workplace experience, and that’s the main component of the 18-month programme.
“We’re very grateful to all of the local businesses for all the support we get because without them we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Liz Butt, Dylan’s case worker at NLN said.
“I think the thing that works really well about what we do is that people work at their own pace. There’s no pressure to get things done by a certain time.
“The outcomes are there. People are moved on either into another third level programme or employment. We’ve had a lot of success with all of our programmes.”
Dylan has been working in Turners Cross Tavern for around six weeks.
He told The Echo he enjoys his work which includes pulling pints, preparing teas and coffees, and fixing the cutlery on his breakfast and lunch shift.
As part of the NLN’s programme Dylan works on Thursday and Friday mornings, and on Sunday also.
“I’m making new friends. Some of them I know from Coláiste Chríost Rí,” Dylan said, while many people who come into the tavern know Dylan already.
“I played for Nemo years ago when I was a kid. All my family are Nemo players and supporters.”
“It’s really nice here,” Dylan added, and said he enjoys chatting and joking with the other staff members.
Margaret O’Riordan, Dylan’s Supervisor in Turners Cross Tavern said they were delighted to come on board and help Dylan with his work placement when they were approached by Liz and the NLN.
She told The Echo that Dylan has come a long way since he first started: “He can now serve tables. He can meet and greet, he takes the menus, he takes water and glasses, he sets up tables. He’s very good at making coffees and teas.
“As we’re going it’s a learning process. He’s improved greatly since he first came here. I felt he was no different than anybody else. The improvement in him has been outstanding since he started doing the Thursday and Friday mornings with me,” Margaret said.
“He’s a great help on Sundays now, because he just automatically goes for the menus and the water and glasses, and that’s part of his job now that he knows he has to do. It’s a pleasure to have him with us.”
His case worker Liz also told The Echo Dylan has been great to have on the Paces programme. “It’s been a real pleasure working with him. He’s a real personality and enthusiasm and loads of energy. He’s been learning on the job skills and that’s what it’s about,” she said.
Dylan now has just a couple of weeks left of his work experience placement, and about six months left in the Paces programme, where he will qualify with a Level 3 General Award in Employability Skills.
There are three instructors on the programme, each with no more than 12 students to look after.
Aside from eight weeks of work experience, students in the Paces programme take modules such as career preparation, personal effectiveness and communication. A resource teacher also teaches subjects like maths and English, while there are also art and gym classes in the afternoons.
Despite his work placement coming to an end soon, Dylan told The Echo that he would love to be able to work in Turners Cross Tavern on a long-term basis.
Margaret says they are discussing the possibility of keeping him on going forward to continue to progress his skills in the area. Both she and Liz are hopeful that he will have the knowledge, when he eventually does finish up with them, to work in a cafe or restaurant.
“He really is fantastic, it’s a joy to work with him,” she said.
Aside from work Dylan takes music lessons and has aspirations to appear on the X Factor: “I want to be famous — probably go on the X factor or Britain’s Got Talent. My favourite judge is Simon Cowell. I do like his insults and his funny business.”
Alongside his music, Dylan goes to drama and also plays rugby with the Sunday’s Well Rebels mixed ability team. He’s really looking forward to the World Cup they are due to host in June 2020.
The Paces programme, of which Dylan is a student, is just one of a number of programmes run by the NLN.
“We’re not like school. Adults are treated like adults. They’ve their own input as well. People have a say in how their own training goes,” Liz says.
The NLN provides a range of flexible training programmes and support services for people who need specialist support such as job seekers, unemployed, and people with an illness or disability.
To contact the Cork office phone 021-4341028, or search NLN Cork on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.