This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating women in all sectors of work life. Women may be less visible in the maintenance or construction world in Donegal, but that’s not to say that the opportunities aren’t open to all.
One woman leading the way in a new Letterkenny-based Public Works Operations and Maintenance traineeship is Martina Brogan (40) from Ray.
The thirty-five week course has been developed by Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB) through its Further Education and Training (FET) Service in partnership with Donegal County Council. The course has been established to train people for entry-level operations and maintenance positions for the construction or local authority sectors.
Martina is the only woman in the first cohort of the programme, but she was never held back by any barriers because of her gender – she’s simply one of the team.
“Nobody treats me any differently. We all work together and people would help me as much as I would help them,” Martina says.
“Going in at the start, I was a bit nervous, but that all ended after a week. Everybody made me feel like I was one of them. We are all one big happy family now.”
Martina has had plenty of office experience, but she was happier doing hands-on town maintenance work such as with the Rural Social Scheme in Rathmullan. She always had an interest in working with Donegal County Council, so when the Public Works Operations and Maintenance traineeship was launched, she was eager to sign up last October.
“It’s amazing. I didn’t expect there was as much in it, but there is building, horticulture, road surfacing and more. It’s right up my street,” Martina said.
“I was never into things like nails and hair. I was brought up in a farming background, and I always had an interest in the outdoors, like concrete building and kerbing.”
The traineeship is delivered across 35 weeks on a full-time basis Monday-Friday, with a half-day on Fridays. Students have a mixture of classroom learning combined with practical training. Modules cover skills including Manual Handling for Workplace, Safepass, First Aid Response, Concreting, Gardening, Water Hygiene and Kerb Laying. There are also computing modules including ICDL documents and spreadsheets to give students the digital skills they need for the workplace. Participants will gain certifications that are not only valid for local authority work, but in a variety of operations and maintenance positions.
“Everything is so well laid out. You do one module and an exam, then you move on to another module, and everything links into the next,” Martina said.
“The tutors are brilliant. We have Gareth Austin for horticulture, Jenny Quinn for computing and Paul Kearney for the manual training.”
Martina particularly enjoyed building and brick-laying. “I really like when I’ve finished building something, and I can stand back and look at it and say: ‘I made that’.”
This week, the class will be undertaking a water safety course to prepare for emergencies at piers and other water-based environments.
The class has eight weeks of study left before they begin a two-month work placement with Donegal County Council in various locations and departments around the county.
Martina’s ultimate goal would be to work with the Council on road maintenance. She also hopes to see more women going forward to training in public works.
“They are enrolling for September 2023, so hopefully there will be more female applicants next year.”
If Martina’s story has sparked your interest in public works operations and maintenance and you’re over 18 years of age, you can apply now for the next intake in September through this link: https://bit.ly/3u7xErZ. Or if you’d like to find out about other courses offered by Donegal ETB’s FET Service, check out their course finder here: www.donegaletb.ie/fetcoursefinder.
This course is funded by the European Union – NextGenerationEU.