Students don't have to
come and spend several years getting an education at The Institute: they could go to Sligo or Athlone instead OR get a proper job straight out of school OR go travelling in the Far East and never come back. But most of my colleagues don't see it as part of the job to recruit the next cohort of empty vessels ready to be educated. Given a choice between volunteering at an Open Day
or Mature Student Interviews
- or standing in the lab marking lab reports, I'd always join the voluntariat; especially if promised a free lunch . . . or even a couple pf biscuits: I'm not proud. One of my colleagues now refuses to do Mature Student Interview after several cases where he'd told management that particular candidates were completely unsuitable for the courses we offer; but then encountered the same candidates in his classes the following September. Management realise that the whole organisation depends on student numbers and the fees they bring; teaching staff realise that some students are more equal than others and some are wasting everybody's time, especially their own.
In the last two weeks I've had an afternoon of Mature Student Interviews MSI and a Saturday morning manning the desk at an Open Day - in addition to our reg'lar annual Open Day in November. The latter is busy with people but weak on actual prospects. The local schools rent a charabanc and deliver 5th and 6th form students en masse
and they surge around our premises in packs. Few really want to be there, but many welcome a morning free from algebra, Irish and civics. Last Saturday was different and the punters (far too many with parent pulling them around) were much more likely to be interested in the courses which we have on offer. Some had driven 100km to be there. The management decided to put on the razz with silvered balloons spelling OPEN DAY like it was a primary school birthday party.
For MSI we get a transcript for each prospect including a 100 word Statement of Intent which usually includes a brief biography to explain the why, how and where from that has brought them to the other side of the desk. Many are really nervous about making the cut; not realising that we are in a demography trough and will take almost anyone who is walking and breathing. So I've met:
- a 22 year old with three years from U Maynooth including a year in the PRC brushing up her Mandarin, who now wants to learn a trade and pharmacy technician is her unlikely choice.
- Une française who has washed up in Clonmel where she makes an uncertain living giving grinds in her native tongue. She was a chemist in France and now thinks working in a pharmacy would provide stability, regular money and community value.
- A middle manager from MegaPharm who is alienated by working among 400 and thinks she would prefer working in a team of 10 or 12.
- Acronym chap in his 20s with a BSc and MSc from NUIG, but also CF and two new lungs. It's amazing that he is still walking and breathing but there he was - determined to pile on more education.
- A mother of three who has been running her own business for the last 15 years and wants, like La Française, to trade that in for regular work not at home. I think she was going a bit stir-crazy.
- A Jamaican New Irish from Dublin who wants to try country living and is dithering between us and Athlone. I forgot to emphasise that Athlone IT is even further from a pub than we are; that might be a selling point.
Heck 'n' Jiminy, I'd take any and all of them. They would bring something to the table.
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