Working Together to Help Women Return to the Workforce
It is no secret that women are underrepresented at every level in the workplace. According to the most recent Irish census data, the workforce participation rate for women aged 35 to 55 is 72% – 20% lower than for men. Significant numbers of highly educated, experienced, professional women take a career break for care giving reasons or have experienced redundancy, and are planning to return to the workforce when the time is right.
However, women ‘returners’ face significant obstacles when they decide to return to paid employment after such breaks and are often overlooked. For the individual, returning to work after a career break can be daunting, with concerns around skills, experience, confidence and working hours.
In 2019, Taste 4 Success Skillnet, in conjunction with UCC’s Food Industry Training Unit and Food Institute, recognised the value of enabling women to return to their careers and developed an innovative programme called Rejuvenate to support them in their quest. The key challenges for women returning to the workplace can be broken down into two distinctive areas, there is the updating of skills to become subject matter experts again and more importantly, there is the need to build back up their confidence and reconnect with their professional self.
Rejuvenate is designed to create new career opportunities for women returning to the paid workforce in the agri-food sector and is fully funded by Taste 4 Success Skillnet and Skillnet Ireland. Delivered by UCC’s Dr Joanne Fearon and Caroline Seacy of the Food Institute, this bespoke programme provides participants, through both a mentored online programme of skills development and industry-facing experience, the opportunity to re-engage with potential employers. Rejuvenate connects the needs of the agri-food sector with talented women in an effort to promote business, social, and economic growth by maximizing female workforce participation.
Bridie Corrigan Matthews, Network Manager, Taste 4 Success Skillnet commented; “Rejuvenate is an exciting programme focused on supporting a high calibre pool of returning female professionals to the workforce. Feedback from the inaugural Rejuvenate programme participants has been extremely positive and it is wonderful to witness these skilled women regain their confidence and re-engage with their sector. It is rewarding to see women support each other, especially our guest speakers who were so generous with their time”.
Helen Breen from Limerick completed the Rejuvenate programme in 2019. Commenting on the programme, Helen said, “I found Rejuvenate great. It really helped with my confidence levels and reminded me that we are all very capable! It is a wonderful platform to help women get the courage they need to get back out of the house after being at home for many years.”
The Taste 4 Success Skillnet Rejuvenate programme, delivered by University College Cork, was recently awarded the Best Diversity and Inclusion Initiative at the Irish Institute of Training & Development (IITD) National Training Awards 2020. It was recognised that this programme tackled a real issue of concern in a strategically important sector. With a national skills shortage and a push for greater gender equality, attracting women back to work would appear to be an obvious part of the solution for employers looking to hire skilled, professional staff.
Rejuvenate 2020, a fully funded online course, will run over 9 weeks, commencing on 20th October, from 10am-12pm every Tuesday and Thursday. This innovative online format means that the programme is accessible nationwide and will help more talented women return to paid employment. Prospective participants can find out more about this free course by visiting: www.ucc.ie/en/food/rejuvenate2020/ or https://taste4success.ie/training/rejuvenate-upskilling-women-returning-to-the-workforce/
Dr Joanne Fearon
Dr Fearon is a Programme Manager in the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences UCC and supports professionals in developing professional effectiveness, communication and project management.
Caroline Seacy M.A. in Marketing
Caroline Seacy is the Marketing Coordinator in the Food Institute UCC and has extensive experience in senior marketing, branding and recruitment roles, gained within industry.
Course participants, who travelled from Limerick, Kerry, Tipperary, Clare and Cork commented:
“The Rejuvenate programme has been a hugely positive experience in my life, the support and encouragement received has been invaluable. It has given me a new lease of life and the focus and determination to build a new career. Advice on CVs, interview skills and presentations has been fantastic”.
“I got my confidence back both in myself and in my ability to re-join to the workforce. I would strongly advise anyone in the position to do the Rejuvenate course to grab the opportunity with both hands”.
“A must for any woman who has stayed at home fulltime to mind their children, it is a journey of rediscovering your potential. An inspiring course”.