Helen’s Story: Upskilling with Cork ETB

Attending an ETB course helped to change Helen Sisk’s life. The ESF+ helps to fund training throughout the 16 Education and Training Boards around Ireland.



Having already completed some QQI Level 3 IT modules at Cork College of  Further Education and Training(FET)  – Bandon Centre, I spotted a Facebook page notice about their QQI certified Level 4 Office Skills course. It was the autumn of 2021. I felt this would fill in the gaps I had in my office skills.  Yes, I had used different accounts packages and Excel, but my word processing and communication skills were zero. I had hoped this course would help me as I had lost all confidence in myself. At this stage, I think I could honestly say I felt rusty in mind, body and spirit. I was seeking change and opted to put the stress of accounts and deadlines behind me and turn my hobby of Family History Research into my new career as a Genealogist. Suddenly life changed for me and I found I had no work outside of home.  My only role appeared to be the family carer. I did have lots of time to think and to plan, but I found it so hard to motivate myself and get back to work.  All of my long-made plans appeared to fly out the window.  I was lost and did not know how to take the next step.

It was at this point I saw the notice on Cork College of FET – Bandon Centre’s Facebook page and made contact. I started the Bandon Office Skills Level 4 course and enjoyed learning and the classes.  I was nervous and just hoping I would get on with others in the class. I need not have worried, I was 60, with an age gap to most including the teacher, but that was never an issue.  I felt very much welcomed and supported. I was lucky as the Bandon Office Skills course is done in sections or modules, once you finish one unit you have that done and can move on to the next stage. Shortly after I started the course, I got sick and had to take months off, but as each module is done on its own, I was able to come back and just continue when I got better.  It was a big help. I am learning so much and really enjoy all the different areas.

One of my big achievements is that I have gained so much confidence and motivation on this course. I have learned how to use Power Point and as part of the 2023 Cork Lifelong Learning Festival, I delivered two introductory talks on Family History, one in Bandon Library and one in Blackpool Library. With my new skills and confidence, I was able to introduce participants, with the aid of Power Point, to key steps in tracing your family history using free online sources.

On the Office Skills course, there are several very different modules and a work placement module is part of the course. Following my work placement in Saile, Community and Sports Centre, Kinsale, I set up a Family History Hub, one morning a week in Saile, Kinsale. This is a place for anyone who is seeking help to research their own family history.  This is the start I needed and it is a huge step on my journey as a genealogist. Cork College of FET, with their wonderful team in Bandon have set me on the road to a new career. 

More information of the Cork College of FET can be found here:

Home – Cork College of FET (corketb.ie)

If you are considering  further education and training , information on the 16 Education and Training Boards can be accessed via the following links:

About ETBs – ETBI

Directory of ETBs – ETBI