South West College Principal and Chief Executive Celine McCartan recently joined business leaders from across the province to celebrate women in leadership. The event, hosted by The NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Encirc, took place on Tuesday 12 September, at the Lough Erne Resort, Enniskillen.
Celine was invited to speak at the high-profile event to share her experience of building diverse, dynamic, and inclusive workforces and inspiring future leaders and was one of four expert speakers to address the audience.
In her speech, Celine highlighted some of the challenges women face entering the workforce and emphasized the critical role that women play in leadership positions and the importance of creating a supportive environment for their growth and development.
Explaining how the College has opened new pathways, Celine highlighted a range of programs aimed at supporting women in education as well as programs to enter or re-enter work or grow their career potential. “The Step Up program provides a mentor-led approach to support economically inactive citizens into education and/or employment and it has a dedicated strand for women the Women Returners Access Programme which is called WRAP.
“This provides access to essential skills, study skills and confidence building, resilience skills with articulation to an Access program and onward into Higher Education and employment, all underpinned by a dedicated mentor. Another program working in partnership with other agencies including Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Fermanagh Rural Community Initiative, and South Tyrone Empowerment Project is the Rural Economic Accelerator Programme (REAP). This program has funding from the UK Department for Levelling Up and seeks to support young people, economically inactive adults, and people with disabilities into employment.
Ms McCartan also detailed how since the Department for the Economy has lifted the cap on the upper age limit on apprentices there is now potential for anyone at any age to become an apprentice. “This will provide more opportunities for women in employment to upskill and develop their career by qualifying in an area they may already have been working in and it also allows women of all ages to return to work via apprenticeships.
When referring to a photo of her at the top of Croagh Patrick, she explained. “The thing about climbing Croagh Patrick – or any mountain – is that the way up is tough -it’s hard work but never underestimate the importance of small steps. Follow the pathways and the reward at the top can be very fulfilling – and don’t forget that you have to make it down as well – so you also need to look after yourself along the way.”
Concluding her speech, Ms. McCartan reflected on her leadership and how her early years shaped that. She said: “I think about the value of community – I think about the people who came to our farm to offer help at difficult times, for advice or to borrow equipment. I think about sustainability; how nothing was wasted, and everything had value. I think about my professional training which had a strong focus on efficiency and always ensuring that resources were well invested. I think about the value of equality; I think about the opportunities for learning I’ve had. I think of the middle bit when I see what a leveler education can be for all.”
Celine’s remarks were met with enthusiastic applause from the attendees, which included business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, and community representatives. Her compelling message served as a source of inspiration and motivation for all in attendance, encouraging them to strive for leadership roles.
Celine expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to participate in such a vital event and engage with leaders and aspiring leaders from various sectors. She reiterated her commitment to empowering women in leadership roles within the college and the wider community, highlighting the range of unique programs offered by the College to support women in their return to education and career progression opportunities.
For more information about the College and its business support and funding programs please contact Nicola Quinn, Business Development and Skills Manager via email at Nicola.Quinn@swc.ac.uk