700 lives enriched thanks to West Cork employment service

Nearly 700 people have found work through the support of EmployAbility in West Cork since it was founded 20 years ago, writes MARY ROSE MCCARTHY
700 lives enriched thanks to West Cork employment service

Staff, politicians and business people pictured at the opening of the Employ-Ability West Cork office at McSwiney Key Bandon, recently relaunched and to celebrate the opening of their new office in Clonakilty. Picture Denis Boyle

“SIXTY-five people so far this year have gained employment through EmployAbiltiy, that is remarkable and it’s not just the person in work, it’s their family also who benefits.

Those were the words of Minister of State, at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Anne Rabbitte, during a visit to EmployAbility West Cork, this year to mark its 20th anniversary.

During her visit, she expressed admiration for the work being done and said it will become a national service in time.

Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Gillian Coughlan - who relaunched the Bandon office, to mark 20 years of the service - opened the original office two decades ago.

She said: “I’m delighted to join you in celebrating 20 years of Employ-Ability West Cork and officially relaunch the Bandon office.

“As Mayor of Bandon, I also had the pleasure of opening the original office.”

She said that during Covid and the uncertainty around employment in some sectors, we need EmployAbility more than ever.


What began 20 years ago as Workstart West Cork is now EmployAbility West Cork. The emphasis is on ability and on finding a route back into employment for those who have been out of work.

All sorts of people from all education levels and lifestyles may have their career interrupted. This is for a variety of reasons, including redundancy, illness, injury, mental health difficulties, or chronic long term disabilities.

Whatever the reasons, EmployAbility West Cork will work to find that person a route back to employment. Job coaches support clients in the initial weeks. Restarting work, after a period of absence can be a very daunting prospect.

“A job is not THE answer …” says Darren Priest, Job Coach, with the Bandon office.

‘That may be a very strange statement for an organisation whose mission is supporting people back to work, and that is celebrating new beginnings with the relaunch of its Bandon office and the opening of a new Clonakilty office.

“A job is not THE answer, but it may be part of the answer.”

He elaborates, saying: “People become disengaged from other people as they become disconnected from meaningful work. We all need a sense of mutual aid and protection that comes with being connected. Without it, we can very easily become anxious and depressed.

“We must have all felt this over the last few months of social distancing and lockdowns. That’s significant when research shows that feeling lonely causes your cortisol levels to sky rocket and becoming acutely lonely can be as stressful as experiencing a physical attack.

People become disengaged from other people as they become disconnected from meaningful work. I believe that the work on (re)building that connectedness begins when a potential client first walks in an EmployAbility West Cork office.

“With the engagement that comes from working with your Job Coach, you might very well start to see that you have choices you were unaware of.

“With choices comes a greater sense of autonomy, with the power and responsibility that brings.

“As we work collaboratively, with our client’s best hopes as our guide, I am often pleased to hear how much more competent my client feels in searching for, gaining and keeping employment’.”

Funded by the Department of Social Protection, EmployAbility West Cork is a person centred, confidential, free support. From helping people prepare a professional CV that will attract an employer’s attention, to problem solving, interview skills and on the job support and training EmployAbility is there at every step of the journey.

Finding one’s self out of work due to redundancy or a major crisis such as mental or physical ill health is a huge blow to confidence. Job search skills such as a writing a CV or attending for interview may not be recent experiences for someone who had held a job for a good number of years.

Knowing the right wording, how to identify skills and talents, and how to describe one’s life experiences are all part of the assistance provided by EmployAbility job coaches.

Chair of the Board of Directors of EmployAbility West Cork, Gearóid O’ Driscoll, thanked the Mayor, the employers, without whom the service could not run, and the Job Coaches who carried on working right throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“With the relaunch of this Bandon office and the relocation to new offices in Clonakilty and Kinsale, all our premises are now Covid compliant with separate entry and exits with plenty of ventilation.

“People are now champing at the bit to get back to work and back to normality. I’m proud to be associated with this work and these wonderful Job Coaches.”

Employers Ronan Twomey, of Precision Engineering, Bandon, and Harry Good-Stephenson, of RoundTower Lime, Innishannon, praised EmployAbility for support they had received. They said they can phone up and outline their needs and a suitable match is found with a jobseeker. The fact that that jobseeker and the employers are then supported for the next 18 months is vital.

Mary Wedell, of An Tobarín Health Food Stores, Emett Calnan, of Calnan Kitchens, and Florian Corcoran, of FC Detailing, added their voices of praise, saying not only did the service help them find suitable employees, but at times also helped with administration and IT skills, and advice.

Darren Priest added: “The service works because the employers offer meaningful work, which adds social capital and is a mitigating effect against loneliness. Thank you for supporting our service.”

EmployAbility West Cork has offices in Skibbereen, Clonakilty, Bandon, Bantry, and Kinsale.

“Since 2011, nearly 700 people have found work through the support of EmployAbility West Cork,” says Micheál Hurley, Co-ordinator of the service. 

“That is a significant number of people to have helped. Employers throughout West Cork have sourced excellent workers through the service.”

EmployAbility is a unique one stop shop for those looking for work; this is open to everyone and does not require referrals from any other agency. They are a registered charity with the revenue commissioners and are governed by a voluntary board of directors. Further information on EmployAbiltiy West Cork, with details of how to contact Job Coaches in your area is on www.empservice.org

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