Two Newtownabbey women were among the awards recipients at the 2016 WOMEN’STEC Gala Awards, which took place at Belfast City Hall recently.
The annual event celebrates and showcases the achievements and innovation of women in non-traditional skills training.
Among the award winners on the night were Newtownabbey women Geraldine Murphy and Beth Thompson.
Geraldine received the WOMEN’STEC Gardening Student Award, while Beth picked up the WOMEN’STEC Furniture Making Student Award and the Tiling Student Award.
Over the past year, in excess of 140 students participated on the Supporting People - Empowering Communities (SPEC) programme run in partnership with Clanmil Housing Group and part funded by the Northern Ireland European Social Fund 2014-2020.
Participants gained 115 qualifications in courses such as plumbing, joinery, painting and decorating, tiling, 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 being backed by leading construction firm Gilbert-Ash 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 only 13.4% - our training programmes are invaluable.
“Through the SPEC programme, part funded by the Northern Ireland European Social Fund 2014-2020 – Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme, the Department of Employment and Learning, Belfast City Council and private sector organisations, Gilbert-Ash 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 in the next three years thanks to our new programme.”
Clanmil Housing Group, Chief Executive, Clare McCarty said: “Through the SPEC programme our tenants are gaining confidence, new skills and are 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.
“We’re pleased to be working in partnership with WOMEN’STEC and are already seeing positive results. It is lovely to celebrate successes with our tenants who are receiving accredited certificates today. We’re also delighted that a group of Clanmil residents have received the Community Award – recognising how they have used their SPEC course to give something back to their community.”
Ray Hutchinson, Managing Director of Gilbert-Ash 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 get involved with this project and to support employability within the construction industry.”
WOMEN’STEC, based in Belfast, works to enable women to return to employment in non-traditional sectors, tackles gender stereotypes and contributes to reducing unemployment.