Courses offer women returning to the workforce support

After a lengthy break from the workforce, women can often find it difficult to return. MARIA ROLSTON looks at where they can get valuable support here in Cork
Courses offer women returning to the workforce support

Front, Niamh Murphy, Geraldine O'Connor (far left) and Frances McCarthy (far right) at the launch of the Cork City Partnership’s “Grow Your Potential” course.

HAVING spent 15 years working as a stay at home mum, the thought of going out to look for a job was simply “quite terrifying” for Cork woman, Niamh Murphy.

Despite having a degree in business studies and accounting from CIT and previously having worked in the accounts department of a Cork publishing company, Niamh, who hails from the Cathedral Road in the city, had been out of the workforce since her second, now 16-year-old, child was born.

Leaving employment to raise her children was something Niamh had both wanted and needed to do. Her husband works in London during the week so she needed to be at home full time when her son, Fionn and daughter, Breffní, now aged 20, were young.

By the time Fionn reached his more independent, teenage years, Niamh had started thinking about going back to work and doing something for herself, but her confidence was low and she was daunted by the idea of the job search process.

“The idea of going back to work without any support seemed quite terrifying to me. I’d been out of work for so long, everything had changed. Even my CV felt like it was part in stone rather than any way up to date, so I really wasn’t confident about looking for work,” said Niamh.

By chance, she saw an advert for a free training and development course for women working in the home. The PEIL (Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning) course, run by Cork City Partnership, offered career coaching, confidence building, CV preparation and interview skills, among other things, and Niamh says it felt like she’d found the right thing at the right time.

She contacted the course facilitator, Siobhan O’Neill, to see if she’d be eligible for the 10 week programme and signed up as soon as she was told she could.

“I was even nervous about doing the course. Within my own circle of friends, everyone was either a stay at home mom and they were staying at home, or they were in employment, and they’d been employed for years. There was no- one within my own circle in the same position as me but when I joined the course, the women on it were all in the same boat and the support we got from each other was incredible.

“The actual training we got on the course was invaluable. I got help getting my CV up to date and help with explaining the gaps in the CV. When I last worked, CVs would have been pages long but all that’s changed. So we were helped to build our CVs and we got interview skills training, advice on how to dress for success, and we even did manual handling training, everything was covered.”

Niamh says she knew she wanted to go back to work on a part-time basis, at least as a first step.

“My goal was to get back into the workplace and do something part time. I wanted a job that I could leave at five o’clock, close the door, and not have to bring work home with me.”

Niamh completed the course in May, 2019, and began applying for jobs straight away. She heard nothing back from the first post she applied for but was called for an interview for the second, for a role working in admin on reception in Egan’s Opticians on Lavitt’s Quay. The interview went well and Niamh was offered the job the same day. She started work on July 4, 2019, and the fact she secured a job so quickly makes it all sound easy, I suggest.

“No, it wasn’t easy, it was absolutely terrifying! Even the thought of going for an interview a couple of months before that time absolutely terrified me, so to actually just do it, get an interview and be offered the job was amazing. I was ecstatic, I was thrilled!” she said.

Cork City Partnership will be running a new version of the PEIL course, entitled ‘Growing Your Potential’, starting in October, to help women working in the home access employment or education. This time, due to Covid19, the programme which offers a range of supports from confidence building, to working with online technology, networking, and interview technique, will be delivered online. Cork City Partnership says it can further support participants should they wish to use their new skills to find employment, or start their own business. Niamh says anyone thinking about signing up for the programme should do it.

“If you’re thinking about the course and you’re on the fence, just go for it, you will not regret it. Two years ago, I don’t think I could have even imagined myself in a job and now I’m walking to work every day and it’s all down to having done the course. It’s changed my life,” she said.

Anyone living in Cork city or the environs, who are interested in signing up for Growing Your Potential can visit for more information.

You can also enquire by email at: and by telephone: 021-4302310


Meanwhile, The Food Institute at UCC is running a course called Rejuvenate 2020, also aimed at upskilling women returning to the workforce. The fully funded online course runs during October and November 2020.

UCC, in conjunction with Taste4Success Skillnet, recognised the value of encouraging professional women to return to their careers and developed an innovative programme called Rejuvenate to support them in their quest. Run by Dr Joanne Fearon and Caroline Seacy of UCC, Rejuvenate provides a group learning opportunity for women, helping them to explore the mechanics of returning to work, alongside some reflective activities to help plan their career progression into the future. This fully funded course offers a small group of women the opportunity to explore the mechanics of returning to work, alongside some reflective activities to help them plan their career progression into the future.

It runs 10am to 12pm every Tuesday and Thursday, online. Course topics include: Self-assessment and Training Needs Analysis, Professional Motivation, Strategies to build Confidence, Resilience and Assertiveness; Professional Network Development; Mentoring and Active Career Management; Key job searching skills, CVs, Cover Letters, Interview Preparation, Working with Job Agencies, Digital Skills - SharePoint, LinkedIn, Social Media Management, there will also be a work placement.

For more, email rejuvenate@ or contact Dr Joanne Fearon on 086 3840587 or Caroline Seacy on 086 854 1005 or contact Breda Barber on 043 6687289, email

There was no-one within my own circle in the same position as me but when I joined the course, the women on it were all in the same boat and the support we got from each other was incredible.

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