Back To Work Connect is an education and career hub aimed at helping women who have taken time out to raise their families get back into the work force. It's the brain child of Gina Oglesby who set up the company in 2019 having recognised a gap in the market for the type of supports women needed to reboot their working lives outside the home environment.
Oglesby hit on the idea for her business in 2018 while studying innovation, entrepreneurship and enterprise at UCD. She then participated in the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Academy for high potential start-ups and has recently completed the New Frontiers programme at the Synergy Centre at IT Tallaght.
“Our aim is two-fold: to help returners get back to work and to help companies that are open to gender and age diversity to tap into this high-calibre talent pool,” says Oglesby who soft launched her platform a year ago. “We connect our clients to these companies while the companies have access to our database of fully supported returners. Gender and age diversity in the workforce is one of the biggest social challenges facing society. Opening up and connecting women to the right opportunities is vital to change the status quo.”
What differentiates Oglesby’s company from others in the employment space is that its focus in on career development. It is not a recruitment agency. Germane to its model is a link between the job opportunities it posts and relevant training courses. Key words in job descriptions are highlighted and connected by a click to the relevant upskilling and retraining. For example, a vacancy in payroll is linked to IPASS courses that offer training in payroll and VAT.
There is a big group of women who have been marginalised by the way the system works here for retraining
Oglesby was inspired to start her business by the number of well-qualified and experienced women she met who had either left or been forced out of the workforce by a combination of high childcare costs and poor flexible/part-time working options. “Seeing this talent go to waste while employers face skills shortages was incredibly frustrating and I wanted to find a way of helping those who fell outside the social welfare net and were deemed ‘economically inactive,’” she says. “Returners face a unique set of challenges. Childcare costs and lack of relevant opportunities are the obvious ones, but lack of confidence, out of date skills and financial dependence are the hidden challenges.
“Our platform is open and free to all but we also have a client portal where those more in need can receive additional supports. We have over 20 qualified career coaches on our panel and we are offering 1:1 career coaching at greatly reduced rates for most clients and free access to those in difficult circumstances. There is a big group of women who have been marginalised by the way the system works here for retraining and also a glaring gap between the jobs being advertised, in software development for example, and easy to find information about the courses available that would allow people to retrain and apply for them.”
Back to Work Connect is aimed at companies, educators and career coaches and the company will make its money from two revenue strands: annual corporate subscriptions and advertising. Development costs, mainly to create the bespoke software to support the platform, have been in the order of €50,000 between personal investment and support from Enterprise Ireland and Dublin LEO.
“We are fundamentally a social enterprise that wants to make a difference in women’s lives, but this is not incompatible with also being a commercial entity, particularly if you want to build a sustainable business,” Oglesby says. “We are a profit for impact business. What’s different about us is how we choose to use our profits.”