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Ludgate helps women find their spark

June 21st, 2022 7:05 AM

By Emma Connolly

Fiona Ryan, project lead for the Reignite Programme, right, withTracy Keogh, co-founder, Grow Remote, at The Ludgate Hub, Skibbereen. The programme will start in September.

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Skibbereen’s Ludgate Hub has just launched its first Reignite Programme. It’s a free course, designed to help rural women get back to work, and they’re inviting applications now

WHEN Fiona Ryan moved to West Cork from Dublin six years ago, she admits it was a bit of a struggle to find a pathway into the local workforce.

Highly educated, the Tipperary native has an undergraduate degree in law, experience working in the financial services sector and has a masters in corporate governance.

She had the education, she had the experience, she was very keen to get employment, but it still took her the bones of a year to make the connections and to get established.

It’s that personal experience that makes her a great fit to be at the helm of a just-launched programme at Skibbereen’s Ludgate Hub.

Called the Reignite Programme, it’s designed to support women in West Cork to get back into the workplace.

‘Taking place over 11 weeks, it will show women how to diversify their skillset, upskill and reskill after taking time out of work for children, to take care of parents, or maybe because of illness. It aims to help bridge the gap between what they did before and getting back to the workplace, with a link to local businesses through a three-month work placement,’ explains Fiona.

It’s the kind of thing she wishes had been in place when she moved with her husband and kids to his native Castlehaven.

‘When I came first, it was a bit like: “Where do I fit in here? What’s my network? What work is there in the community that can I take up that will match my skillset?”

‘I didn’t have anyone who was advising me on what direction to take, or who to talk to,’ she recalls.

Rural communities present unique challenges in this regard, she points out. The opportunities are there, but there’s not always the same access to networking.

‘If I had been in the city I would have been on to a recruiter and would have found a list of ideal jobs.

‘But it can be difficult to match what’s available in a rural community with that education you’ve attained, that can be the challenge.’

Fiona worked for Spearline for three years, when they were based in Ludgate.

Head of Ludgate, Grainne O’Keeffe also worked for Spearline at the time.

Women who have taken time out to raise a family and want to upskill, would be ideally suited to the 11-week programme.

‘When Grainne became ceo of Ludgate, a part-time funding position came up which I took in 2020, then last September I went full-time as start-up and entrepreneurship manager,’ she said.

In this role she became aware of Rethink Ireland’s Rural Recovery Fund 2021. Set up to combat the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on rural Ireland, it’s designed to support working with communities in rural Ireland that focus on recovery and resilience.

It’s a one-year €600,000 fund with support from Google.org and the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund.

‘We applied to the fund in November, were shortlisted for interview in January, did the interview in February and found out we had been successful in April.

‘A total of 60 projects applied, and only six projects are being supported including Ludgate so we’re really pleased to be part of that,’ said Fiona.

Applications are now open to women of all ages and backgrounds to be part of the 11-week Reignite programme which is entirely free.

‘From both my own experience and struggle identifying the path back into the workplace, and talking to others, I know there are great skillsets out there, but women have given up the workplace, primarily to rear children, or to look after an elderly person, or due to sickness or ill health, and this programme will speak to that cohort.

‘We want to give them the skills; to be the bridge between the 11-week programme and the corporates in the local community where they will take up work experience,’ she explained.

The approach is all very gentle and the workload is manageable, and can be for women who wish to work full or part time, or who are simply ‘testing the water.’

It’s all about making connections.

Modules covered will include communication, motivation, CV and interview preparation, project management and digital skills.

The commitment needed is entirely compatible with home and family life, insists Fiona.

‘There will be one workshop per week, in the morning and probably at the start of the week, for two to three hours in Ludgate and everything else will be virtual,’ she said. 

Overall programme lead is Castlehaven man Kieran Collins, education innovation manager at Ludgate, and there will also be a group of mentors available to support the candidates, women who have already experienced getting back into the workplace.

The programme – which is entirely free – has only just launched and already there has been a good level of interest from the region.

Candidates will be selected based on their suitability, and applying is very straightforward.

• See Ludgate.ie for the application form.

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