This piece was originally published in the Westmeath Independent, 16th April 2016. 

AN EXCITING free programme to assist job seekers in Athlone has been launched in the town.

The free programme which has been developed and run by the Innovation Academy UCD, is funded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Springboard+ Initiative.

The recent Athlone launch was supported by Pat McDonagh, founder of Riverdeep, former politician Mary O’Rourke, former Mark Atterbury, Regional Development Executive, Enterprise Ireland, David Nevin of Innovation Academy UCD and recent Athlone graduate Lynne Kelly.

The free programme, which offer an innovative approach to third level education, to date has resulted in 72% of all graduates going into regular employment or establishing their own business.

The programme brings together participants in groups who work on projects that stimulate creativity, problem solving and create positive environments for experiential learning. Participants also have an opportunity to connect with employers through innovation projects with industry and guest speakers.

Beginning Thursday, April 28, this course will run for 18 weeks, two days a week from 9am-5pm. Participants who successfully complete the course will gain a qualification from University College Dublin along with a highly transferable skill set with the skills to gain employment or to start their own business or social venture. The course applies a Team by doing’ teaching method with no exams and attracts a diverse mix of people who either wish to start their own business, embark on a new career or rejoin an existing career path.

Professor Suzi Jarvis, Founding Director of the Innovation Academy said: “We are so delighted to be bringing the programme to Athlone, nurturing entrepreneurship and getting more people back into the workforce as we use our learnings in innovation and developing people’s creativity for business and education into communities around the country.”

“Our whole focus is to encourage creative thinking and increase people’s capacity for innovation within their careers or with their business ideas and we see first hand new businesses shooting up following these programmes and more people re-joining the workforce with renewed confidence and energy.”

The course is taught by a team of academics and entrepreneurs such as Ronan Byrne, Athenry and Ferdia Macanna, Dublin.

The GAA through a partnership with the Innovation Academy UCD, are also lending their support to the course to reach communities around the country. The course is also championed by entrepreneurial leaders from the GAA in each province including Pat McDonagh, founder of Supermacs, Pat McDonagh, founder of Riverdeep, Brian McEniff, Director, McEniff Hotels and Frank Murphy, CEO, Monex.