Dundalk Chamber of Commerce School Mentoring Initiative

Following on from the positive impact the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce Shop Local Voucher Scheme has had on the retail sector in our community, Dundalk Chamber started a School Mentoring Initiative with a view to bringing a similar positive impact to our local schools and their pupils.

Led by Brendan Gallagher, Chamber of Commerce Council Member and Director of Operations for Prometric, a call was put out to the Chamber membership to see if members of the local business community would be willing to lend their expertise and knowledge to provide benefit to the school community. The response from the business community was extremely positive with a large number of business leaders eager to give of their time to benefit the schools and their pupils. Following discussions with local school leaders and in particular those involved in Transition Year & LCVP (Leaving Cert Vocational Programme) programmes there was a very clear appetite from the schools for this initiative. The schools felt it would be extremely beneficial for their pupils to hear directly from local business leaders and have the opportunity to talk to them about their companies, job roles, and experiences.

A match making process then occurred whereby business volunteers were matched to schools based on the particular topics the schools were interested in and the particular areas of expertise of the volunteers. From that point the visits by our business volunteers to the various schools took place. Based on the very positive feedback from the schools and their pupils they certainly found it to be a very worthwhile and beneficial experience.

Amongst the business volunteers who presented to and held discussions with local school groups were:

  • Brendan Gallagher (Prometric) & Laura McKinnon (Anord Control Systems) who visited St. Vincent’s School.
  • Stewart Agnew (Dundalk Credit Union) who visited Coláiste Rís.
  • Anthony Woods (The Keystone Business School) who visited O’Fiaich College.
  • Stephen Hogg (Bellurgan Precision Engineering) who visited St. Mary’s College (The Marist).
  • Sarah Daly (Creative Spark) who visited Dundalk Grammar School.
  • John Nealon (M1 Document Solutions) who visited St. Louis School.
  • Paddy Malone (Malone & Co Accountants) & Brendan Gallagher (Prometric) who took part in TY interviews in Dundalk Grammar School.
  • Additional school visits were coordinated for Orla Hayes (Carrickdale Hotel), Majella Toner (Four Seasons Carlingford), Ciara Byrne (RecruitmentPlus), Aidan Harte (Optimum Results), and Pat McCormick (DKIT) which are being planned for the new school year.
  • There were also additional volunteers from a number of other businesses who we simply couldn’t facilitate across the schools taking part during this school year but we will certainly look to take advantage of their expertise as we continue and expand this programme next year.

Business Volunteers and School representative alike have given very positive feedback to the initiative as demonstrated by some of the following quotes:

Audrey Flood, O’Fiaich College – The students really enjoyed Anthony’s presentation and it will be of great benefit to them going forward.

Marie Meehan, St. Louis – The students were very interested in John’s talk. He was in command in the room and he knew the correct mix of talk and activities to keep the students engaged. He spoke about the issues and demands of setting up a business and the highs and lows involved. We were very grateful to have John in to share his knowledge of the business world.

Linda McCusker, St. Vincent’s – The students were very complimentary about the talk they received from Brendan and Laura – they found it very interesting and really enjoyed it. Personally, I would love to see this happen again next year and think it is a fantastic opportunity for our students to meet very successful people from the business world and obviously hearing from a past pupil is also great for the girls.

Alan Norton, Dundalk Grammar School – The mentoring initiative is a hugely beneficial experience for our students and could not happen without the business volunteers giving of their time and expertise. We look forward to engaging further with the Chamber on this valuable programme next year.

Stephen Hogg, Bellurgan Precision Engineering – Overall I felt there was good engagement from the group and we managed to hold their attention.  We had several questions from the group during the session and a number of them came up to us afterwards to ask some more.  It was a good use of our time.

Laura McKinnon, Anord Control Systems – Being a past student of the school and a past transition year student, it allowed me to go back in time, put myself in the students shoes and try to apply some practical tips and guidance to prepare them for career development. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I hope to continue to be involved in.

Brendan Gallagher, Prometric – The success of this Schools Mentoring Initiative comes down to the Business volunteers who gave of their time and expertise for the benefit of our local schools and their pupils. Equally it would not have happened without the enthusiastic partnership of local school leaders. It was refreshing and energising to see first-hand the talent that exists in our local student population. The future is very bright!

Anthony Woods pictured with students from O’Fiaich College