In early 2022, an engineer, 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 were 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 is a 12-week programme for unemployed women returning to the workplace. It 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 of personal coaching;
  • IT Skills – Word, Excel and Navis Works refreshers;
  • Job Preparation Skills – CV and cover letter preparation, LinkedIn Profile, interview skills;
  • Soft Skills - Communication Skills, Creativity and Adaptability, Teamworking, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Self-Management;
  • Hard Skills – Manual Handling and Safe Pass;
  • Six-week work placement meeting both the needs of the participants and the employer, ie full-time, part-time, job share.


The first programme was highly successful with the experience of both participants and employers being extremely positive. One company employed the person they took on placement and are eagerly awaiting the new cohort so they can offer another placement. 

Mary, one of the participants, said: “The course boosted my confidence and gave me the opportunity to focus on my soft skills and my 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 this [applying for jobs] on my own but with the programme I find myself in the place I want to be”.

Second programme starts on May 12

The first group was made up of women from various different backgrounds and various different countries. “The first hurdle they’d to get over was this idea of coming onto camera and not sitting behind the black screen”, said Louise Burke, their trainer from Optimum.

“Then they are coming onto camera and it’s trying to find their voice. In the first week there is 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.

“Fairly quickly into the course they had developed a network among 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, role, work times, etc. all have to be taken into account. But it is important that the placement suits both the course participant and the employer as the aim is that it will turn into a real job if at all possible.

Though participants say that the fact that they have had the opportunity to be back in the workplace has improved their confidence, improved their network and improved their opportunities, even if it doesn’t turn into a job.

If you are interested or know anyone who may interested in the programme as a participant or as a host company please contact Liz from the Construction Professionals Skillnet for further information at

Quotes from participants

'Before the course I was the mum and the housewife and now I am ready to return to work.' Diana
'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.' Caroline
'I never thought I’d have the opportunity to study here or to work here.' Miroslava
'The course opened things up for me and now I’m thinking of going back to education to move forward with the construction sector.' Konstancja
'Sometimes people want to change their career path but they don’t know how. This programme opened the door for us.' Tatiana