Returning to work with confidence: New ways of thinking to solve the construction industry’s talent shortage

by | Feb 21, 2023

At the CIF’s International Women’s Day Event in March 2022, it was suggested there could be many women who had worked in the construction sector in the past and may be amenable to returning to the sector and filling some of the gaps that are present, writes Liz Carroll, Network Manager with Construction Professionals Skillnet.

Shortly after, Fiona Forde of Amazon, contacted the Construction Professionals Skillnet. She had a mission. To get more women back into construction. Based on her own experience of returning to the workforce she believed that greater supports would encourage women back to work and specifically construction, where there are many vacancies.

This was the beginning of Return with Confidence – Construction Works. Using Fiona’s own experience, a programme was designed and an application was successfully put into Skillnet Ireland to provide the necessary funding.

The result was a 12-week programme for unemployed women returning to the workplace.

Encouraging women back to the workplace

The first programme is now coming to a close and the experience of both participants and employers has been highly positive. The participating group was made up of women from various backgrounds and nationalities.

“The first hurdle they’d to get over was this idea of coming onto camera and not sitting behind a black screen,” says Louise Burke, trainer from Optimum.

“Then once they are on camera, it’s about trying to find their voice. In the first week there was a huge development in their level of comfort. Once they had settled, they just took off.

“There was a phenomenal rate of growth, a phenomenal rate of confidence that you could see as they progressed through the course.”

She added: “Fairly quickly into the programme they had developed a network amongst themselves.

“We used break-out rooms to help them build their confidence. They were harsh enough in that they would ask hard questions but still be very supportive of each other.”

Finding a suitable placement isn’t always easy as location, roles and work times all have to be taken into account. It is important that the placement suits both the course participant and the employer, as the aim is for it to turn into a real job, if at all possible.

Participants, however, say the fact they have had the opportunity to be back in the workplace has improved their confidence, network and opportunities, even if it doesn’t turn into an actual job.

A second Return with Confidence – Construction Works programme will start in late spring.

If you are interested or know anyone who may interested in getting involved as a participant or as a host company contact Liz from the Construction Professionals Skillnet for further information at [email protected].

Return with Confidence

Return with Confidence – Construction Works is an industry led, fully-funded programme for people who are not in employment, subject to eligibility criteria and the availability of places.

It includes:

• Four hours personal coaching
• IT skills – Word, Excel and Navis Works refreshers
• Job preparation skills – CV and cover letter preparation, LinkedIn profile and interview skills
• Soft skills – Communication, creativity and adaptability, team working, critical thinking, problem solving and selfmanagement
• Hard skills – manual handling and Safe Pass
• Six-week work placement meeting both the needs of the participants and the employer – full-time, part-time and job share


‘Before the course I was the mum and the housewife and now I am ready to return to work.’

‘The course was important for me because I had a group of people to support me and they were able to help me navigate a path that I hadn’t been able to do on my own. There is a team to help you.’

‘I never thought I’d have the opportunity to study or work here.’

‘The course opened things up for me and now I’m thinking of going back to education to move forward with the construction sector.’

‘The course boosted my confidence and gave me the opportunity to focus on my soft and hard skills and know myself better. I am more confident that I can go back to work full-time. It is a personalised course. I was doing applying for jobs on my own but with the programme I’ve found myself in the place I want to be.’

‘Sometimes people want to change their career path but they don’t know how. This programme opened the door for us.’

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