Anne Marie Woods

Anne Marie is sharpening her skills in the kitchen!

Anne Marie Woods, 51, has found a new passion for the culinary world after returning to education as a mature student with the LYIT (Letterkenny Institute of Technology).
Anne Marie, from Gortahork, is studying for a Certificate in Culinary Skills on a Springboard course. She is returning to college for semester two this week, and is eager to get back into the kitchen at the Killybegs Campus.
Anne Marie had been home raising her family for the past 20 years. She is eager to get back out into the workforce now that her son and daughter have grown up.
When discussing her return to education, Anne Marie said “This is the perfect time for me to return to education. I was looking for jobs and saw a lot of vacancies in the food industry, so I want to get those skills and hopefully get a job next year.”
Springboard courses are designed for jobseekers to upskill in areas where there are skill shortages. The programme is open to those who are unemployed or working part-time and allow students to keep their social protection supports. Springboard includes those working part-time, as long as that person is entitled to sign-on during days they are not working. All Springboard courses are free, part-time, and last for one year.
Anne Marie spends two days per week in class, with that time being jam-packed with learning about food preparation. “Those two days are full-on. You’re in on the dot of half nine and spend all day either in the kitchen or learning theory. It is a challenge,” Anne Marie said.
The challenges that come with returning to education are made much easier with the help of a Learning to Learn module run by LYIT in the first semester.
Anne Marie met with a tutor to discover her learning style, what study skills she had and what she needed to improve. She learned how to do reports, how to access the LYIT Blackboard application and prepare presentations, among other skills.
“People could be feeling a bit anxious going back to school after being away for a while as everything has changed, but the tutor was fantastic. Everyone has their own way to study and she was able to highlight that,” Anne Marie said.
Anne Marie discovered that she needed to apply herself to theory work along with learning kitchen and cooking skills. Through the Learning to Learn module, she was able to manage her study time and deal with the pressures that come with assignments and tests.
“I learned that you have to be strict about your time management to get reports done. I didn’t find the kitchen too stressful, but you just have to keep your cool,” she said.
Anne Marie is delighted to have passed her first semester and received great feedback from her tutors. “The tutors want everyone to achieve and pass their exams. If you don’t do well they guide you on where you can improve,” she said.
“The staff are fantastic. It’s a small campus so it’s like a wee family where everybody knows everybody. There are around 13 of us in the kitchen and we are all in different age groups. Everyone gets along well,” she said.
Anne Marie had never worked in a kitchen before and has been perfecting the basics for the past four months. She has learned knife skills, food storage, how to prepare sauces, how to cut various meats, as well as health and safety procedures.
The health and safety education was vital for Anne Marie when she went out to experience the working environment. The programme involves 400 hours of work placement, which can be completed throughout the second semester or during the following summer.
Anne Marie is so eager to get employment after this course that she has already started her work placement. She has joined the kitchen staff of a local hotel for one evening each week.
“It’s a busy hotel but the only way you learn something like culinary skills is to get stuck into it. When you have to put out food quickly and have to be fast, you get a good idea of how the kitchen runs. I love to challenge myself,” she said.
All Springboard students on this programme have the option to apply for Direct Entry to Year 2 of the BA in Culinary Arts.
“Part of me would like to go back and do the second year, while I would also like to get out and work. I have a lot of options to consider,” she said.
Anne Marie would encourage anyone considering returning to education to do it, whatever their age. “People might be put off because they are mature, but you’re treated just the same as the younger students. If you’re nervous about not being in education for a long time then don’t be.
“The staff are so friendly and the facilities are great. It’s a lovely small campus and everyone knows each other, whether it’s the tutors, the library staff or the canteen staff. Because Killybegs is a small campus people have time to spend with you and get to know you,” she said.
Anne Marie is most looking forward to learning about pastries, bakery and desserts in this upcoming semester. Life is looking pretty sweet for Anne Marie!