By Mary McCarthy
‘Chance favours the prepared mind’. Luck was on my side after having had a conversation with a friend who had seen the Ludgate Reignite programme advertised. I had been off work for a few years after a bout of illness and undertaken an MA in Creative Writing at UL and then the pandemic hit. Getting back to paid employment was my intention and this was the break I was waiting for to get myself established.
The Reignite Digital Skills Programme offered by Ludgate, is a female returners programme for employment, hosted with the support of UCC and sponsored by Rethink Ireland and the ESB. It consisted of 11 weeks of a taught component and is followed by work experience in the new year. I enjoyed meeting the 13 other women on the course, getting encouragement from them and also from the tutors. This helped me regain my confidence, motivation and find a sense of direction.
With every session, I learnt something new. My learnings might not reflect the others in the group, because we all brought different education and experience to our journeys. On the course, we covered both soft and hard skills. Anna Healy, Confidence and Mindset coach, emphasised the value of self-care practices as well as good communication. I was very interested in what she had to say about deep listening, which is when we are completely in tune with other people connecting, with the person and not the story.
The main focus of the Reignite programme was learning about digital skills. Richie Hunt, a Training Project Manager, offered a refresher course on Word, Excel and Power Point to develop these appropriate professional skills for the workplace.
Marie Wiseman from Wiser Marketing said that social media reaches a wide audience that’s worldwide and has the ability to connect us with lots of people and other businesses and communities. I was keenly aware of the potential advertising strength in this when I hope my poetry collections will be published and for sale. What was also interesting was learning about CANVA, a free graphic design app, and meeting the challenge to design a Christmas card.
Mary Burke from Ludgate, provided training on Linkedin. What was useful in this training was to learn how to grow my followers, how to set up job alerts from companies advertising jobs, how to upload my CV and link my Twitter account to the site. Even the headshot taken for my Linkedin profile looked professional, probably due to a lovely pink background.
When reading the UL MA in Creative Writing, I learnt about project management, and this session with Caroline Murphy was a gentle reminder of how to use that skill again. I was encouraged when she told us her story that having bought four hens, someone told her that money can’t be made from hens. She is the founder of the award-winning West Cork Eggs and has a progressive business today. Sometimes others can be wrong and we must trust our own inner compass.
Gráinne O’Keeffe, CEO of Ludgate, talked about the employment landscape in west Cork and gave us a comprehensive reference list of Enterprise Ireland and Local Enterprise Ireland companies in the area.
Since the COVID pandemic, positive changes have emerged in the workforce, where greater flexibility and remote working are options being offered by companies. James Harron of Grow Remote, spoke about remote working, which allows people to live and participate locally, from jobs that are located worldwide.
Teresa O’Sullivan from the ETB, gave an informative session about upskilling and courses on offer that can facilitate getting a job. Lorraine Shine from Career and Interview Success spoke about CV and interview preparation. Something I learnt is, when uploading a CV online to do so in a PDF format unless a Word document is specifically requested.
The greatest benefit of the course was the mentoring and coaching I received, where work suited to my specific qualifications and experience was explored. This gave me focus and drive to figure out how to make it happen. Both Siobhán Cronin, editor of The Southern Star and the leadership coach, Aodhdín Forbes, believed in me and then I began to believe in myself and what I can contribute in terms of writing for newspapers, content writing and submitting my poetry collections.
I would highly recommend the Reignite programme and we need programmes like this. It was an immersive experience that enabled networking, highlighted the benefits of transferable skills and our talent was supported by Gráinne O’Keeffe, Fiona Ryan, Tracey Daly, Kieran Collins, Mary Burke, Elma Connolly and the Ludgate team.
‘Education is not filling of a pail, but lighting of a fire.’ WB Yeats.