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Abstract

In the aftermath of the global economic crisis of 2008 and the subsequent recession in Ireland and indeed across Europe, public discourse in politics, society, academia and media has focused on explaining the crisis as well as looking for solutions to the crisis. In the context of the Irish recession now in its fifth year, with unemployment at 13.6% or 435,357 (Central Statistics Office, 2013) there is understandable urgency across all sectors to find ways out of the crisis. It is against this backdrop of Ireland’s fall from the dizzying heights of the celtic tiger years to the depths of the celtic crash, that all sectors of the state are being mobilized ‘to mending the pieces of a fractured society, (and to fix) a broken economy’ (Department of the Taoiseach, 2011). The further education and training sector is at the forefront of efforts to support individuals and communities devastated by the loss of jobs, unemployment, and fear for the future. Further education and training (FET) is one of the options to which people turn following life altering events such as job loss. It has also been the port of call for many who are starting out on job search. Community education located as part of FET includes both formal and informal provision delivered in community centres and education centres predominantly through Education and Training Boards (formerly VECs). If the government are seeking solutions to the crisis, they might consider the approach and positive outcomes happening in community education involving community education facilitators, tutors, facilitators, participant learners, volunteers, community workers and activists. This literature review presents evidence of the contribution community education is making and can continue to make toward employability and labour market activation in Ireland. Community education is considered here within lifelong learning policy and research and considers a number of practice examples from the field. The literature is examined here under three headings; policy, research and practice. The review covers EU, Irish and UK policy, research and academic studies across all three headings. The literature considered here reveals the role and space occupied by community education. It points to the contribution it makes in empowering people to grow in confidence in their own employability and engage with the labour market whilst contributing to politicized and collective active citizenship. The research question which this literature review will seek to address is: In what ways does community education meet the labour activation and employability challenge of the current unemployment crisis in Ireland?

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