It was a case of lucky 13 for a group of local students last Friday night as they took centre stage at an awards presentation ceremony in Armagh City Hotel. Friday 13th marked the graduation of thirteen young people aged 17 to 22 years old who successfully completed a ten month programme of engagement with local Irish language social enterprise, CAIRDE Teo.
The ‘SEAS’ youth enterprise project was launched during ‘Seachtain na Gaeilge’ (Irish Language Week) back in March 2013 and was intended to increase the capacity of young Irish speakers in Armagh City to generate revenue and employment using their own unique set of skills and experience. A combination of Queens University Belfast accredited courses, field trips, study visits, work placements and residentials were designed to equip the young people with the necessary skills and experience to identify gaps in local product and service provision and to explore social entrepreneurial solutions to local issues.
Dr Tess Maginess, Director of Undergraduate Programmes in the School of Education at Queens University and Professor Paul Stewart, Professor of the Sociology of Work and Employment at the University of Strathclyde presented the students with their scroll certificates at presentation ceremony that was accompanied by traditional music, a wine reception and a gala Christmas Party in the City Hotel.
The successful applicants, most of whom attended Irish medium schools in the area, were able to avail of work placements in a number of local enterprises, gaining first-hand knowledge of what it takes to work in the vibrant third sector. The project was co-funded by the Inspiring Youth Enterprise programme – an initiative of the RBS group, parent of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, which provides grants to encourage more young people to explore enterprise, build their skills, start up and succeed in business. CAIRDE Teo also received funding for the project from the Big Lottery Fund Awards for All programme.
Joanne McDowell, the Big Lottery Fund’s NI Director said: “I am delighted that we have been able to support the work of CAIRDE Teo through our Awards for All programme. Awards for All funds projects that help bring about positive changes in communities and develop skills. This project is a great example of that and I would like to congratulate them on their success.”
In addition to completing two short courses, accredited by Queens University School of Education, focussing on Communication and Media Skills and the Social Economy and Cultural Enterprise, the young people also engaged with Invest NI’s Social Entrepreneurship Programme which assists budding entrepreneurs to set up new businesses in the social economy. This aspect of the project was jointly delivered with Stephen McClelland of Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency.
Welcoming the project, Mr McClelland stated:
“CAIRDE Teo has launched yet another new project that enhances the potential of the social economy in Armagh and in the wider district to be an agent of economic, community and cultural regeneration. This is a tremendous opportunity for all the young people involved and I hope to see many of them go on to become significant players in the social economy sector”.
The SEAS project was partly inspired by ambitious plans to build a new £1.5million Irish language and cultural centre in the city. This significant investment in the local economy will offer new opportunities for young people who are seeking employment in the tourism, cultural heritage, media and Irish language sectors. Six local community based enterprises have already expressed interest in locating within the new cultural enterprise hub. Directors of the proposed new centre, named Aonach Mhacha, have expressed a desire to see the new building evolve as an incubation hub for new and emerging cultural enterprises.
“The success of this project will go some way to helping us achieve our goal of inspiring a new generation of social and cultural entrepreneurs in Armagh. Youth unemployment is now an endemic feature of the local economy. As an alternative to low paid and insecure employment, CAIRDE is encouraging young people to look at creative and stimulating ways of generating income and jobs through cultural enterprise. By learning how to identify and to fill gaps left by the private and public sectors, our young people could potentially act as both agents of social change and stimulators of the local economy.
“I’d like to thank all our funders and our partners who have contributed to the successful delivery of the ‘SEAS’ project. The schemes would not have got off the ground without the tremendous help and support of Queens University Belfast, Invest NI, Newry and Mourne Cooperative Enterprise Agency, RBS Inspiring Youth Enterprise, Big Lottery Fund, Coláiste Chaitríona, Macha Media, Foras na Gaeilge and all the team at Aonach Mhacha.”