The Positive Power Of Apprenticeships
“I wouldn’t really want to sit in an office all day,” says Aoife Power, a 17-year-old painting apprentice at JW McNulty. “Yeah, it’s a lot of work to be on site but it’s great to be active, keeping fit and not just sitting about,” fellow apprentice Angela McDwyer, 18, agrees.
It was after a meeting with her guidance counsellor that Angela was introduced to the idea of taking up a painting apprenticeship.
“Before I hadn’t really given it much thought, how much I would like it or not and now a few months in and I really am loving it.”
Aoife adds: “Angela mentioned the apprenticeship that she had learned about in school, so we both thought we would just give it a go and see if we like it.”
Both teenagers describe how school was not the environment for them – compounded by the focus of the education system to pursue further academic careers.
“In school it was all college, college, college,” Aoife adds. “But not everybody wants to go to college.” Angela agrees, describing how the apprenticeship has given them each an opportunity to become more independent while learning an important trade skill from which to build their own careers.
“I was never going to go to college, that’s just not for me, so school didn’t offer me what I needed,” says Aoife. She explains how she completed her fifth year when she first learned of the apprenticeship.
Having never found comfort working in the school environment she told her mother about the opportunity and it’s had a dramatic and positive effect on her life.
“I’m a completely different person now that I’m working,” she says. “I’m out here and learning some independence too, which is good. There’s no one here to babysit you so it’s a life lesson as much as it’s the skills on site.”
“With the apprenticeship, support and accommodation from JW McNulty we are getting to experience an independence we wouldn’t get anywhere else,” Angela says.
Both originally from Donegal town, she explains how far the apprenticeship has taken them, literally, working on the Docklands in Dublin town.
Figuratively too, she describes how intensive the apprenticeship has been.
“Beforehand I would never have guessed what goes into the paintwork but it’s not just painting a wall – there’s so much to prep before any of that.”
On the subject of women in construction they have plenty to contribute.
“There’s very little talk outside of the industry of how much they need women to join on site,” says Angela. It becomes clear there is a disparity from the reality of working on a construction site that the industry is keenly aware of and the awareness the outside public has.
“There’s a taboo kind of a thing,” Aoife says. “People have it in their mind that a woman on-site is going to get hassled or catcalled but that’s just not the case of it at all.”
For Angela it comes down to one simple fact – the quality of people that work in the industry. “Everybody looks after each other here so even though it is a male-dominated space we’re working with good people,” she says.
“Everyone is working together and we’re always treated the same as anyone else,” adds Angela. There is still more that can be done to encourage young women to join the industry.
Both Angela and Aoife describe their first day joining the site.
“Definitely, there’s not a lot of women on the site,” says Aoife. “It’s interesting because before we came up here, we heard from others that there more women than ever joining the industry. That might be true, but when we came to site we see there’s still so few women,” Angela adds.
But the industry is making an effort.
To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 there is an upcoming lunch being organised by the site’s main contractor SISK – to be shared by all the women working across the different companies on the site.
“I think it will be really good to get to meet the other women working on the site, who we might see around but haven’t worked directly with, to get to know them a bit more,” Aoife says.
When asked if it’s isolating to be among so few women Angela adds: “It’s not so much isolating, in the sense that everyone you work with is good to be around, but it is different.”
Could more be done to encourage women into the industry?
“I think so, especially more young girls in school should be told about this work,” says Angela. “It’s completely different than what you might have thought before coming here and maybe not enough young girls in school know that.”