The annual WOMEN’STEC Gala Awards took place at Belfast City Hall in March to celebrate and showcase the achievements and innovation of women in non-traditional skills training.
In the past year, in excess of 175 students participated on the Supporting People – Empowering Communities (SPEC) programme ran in partnership with Clanmil Housing Group and part funded by the Northern Ireland European Social Fund 2014-2020 – Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme, and Department for the Economy.
Participants gained 165 qualifications in courses such as plumbing, joinery, painting and decorating, electrics, horticulture, information technology and first aid, helping to equip them for the world of work. The programme has received resounding support from the construction industry and partner organisations, and is backed by leading construction firms Gilbert-Ash Ltd and JMC Mechanical and Construction Ltd.
Lynn Carvill, Chief Executive of WOMEN’STEC, stated, “It is with great pleasure that we recognise the hard work of our students. Many of these women have overcome considerable barriers to take part in our courses. With the shortage of skills and the under-representation of women in the construction sector, with an industry average of around 13.4%, our training programmes are invaluable.
“Through the SPEC programme, part funded by Belfast City Council and private sector organisations, Gilbert-Ash Ltd construction group and JMC Mechanical and Construction Ltd, training schemes for more than 500 participants who face difficult barriers to employment and training are to be created over a three year period.”
Clanmil Housing Group, Chief Executive, Clare McCarty, added, “Through the SPEC programme our tenants are gaining confidence, new skills and qualifications, as well as developing new friendships with their neighbours – so important in creating sustainable communities. Tenants have been really enthusiastic about the courses and are finding them both enjoyable and rewarding.”
Clare continued, “We’re pleased to be working in partnership with WOMEN’STEC and are already seeing positive results. We recognise how SPEC engages people to give something back to their community and we’re delighted that a Clanmil resident has been announced Student of the Year.”
Darina Armstrong, Progressive Building Society, presented the Student of the Year Award to Clanmil resident, Christine McCarron, who completed accredited courses in Painting & Decorating and Joinery.
Darina said, “I am delighted to see an increasing number of women interested in learning non-traditional skills and taking up accredited courses. Christine, like many of her peers, has overcome a range of barriers to pursue new learning opportunities and she has succeeded in taking on new challenges. She is a real inspiration.”
Christine McCarron, Student of the Year 2017, remarked, “When I first started the Joinery class at WOMEN’STEC I felt shy and wasn’t in a very good place of mind. Looking back now, I’m so glad I took the opportunity and completed the course. I thoroughly enjoyed it, learned new skills and I’ve gained lots more confidence. It has helped me feel like I can take on new challenges in life.”
Ray Hutchinson, Managing Director of Gilbert-Ash Ltd, said, “We are pleased to be able to partner with WOMEN’STEC. At present, two of the main issues in the construction sector are the shortage of skills and the under-representation of women. Our workforce is currently 24% female, well above the industry average, and we are continuing to work proactively to raise the profile of construction as an industry of choice for everyone.”
Tracy Victor of JMC Mechanical and Construction Ltd, added, “We’re delighted to be part of the Clanmil team providing maintenance services to the people who live in Clanmil homes. It makes perfect sense for us to be involved with this project and to support employability within the construction industry.”
Councillor Aileen Graham, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said, “The work of WOMEN’STEC fits with the Council’s Belfast Employability and Skills Framework and Action Plan and its aims to address employability and skills challenges in the city. The Gala Awards at City Hall can help raise the profile of women and construction as an industry of choice.”
For more information on WOMEN’STEC, telephone 028 9074 9810 or visit www.womenstec.org