The Taste4Success Skillnet was recently awarded the Best Diversity and Inclusion Initiative at the Irish Institute of Training & Development National Training Awards 2020 for its “Rejuvenate – Upskilling women returning to the Workforce Programme”.
“Rejuvenate is an exciting programme focused on supporting a high-calibre pool of female professionals to return to the workforce,” says Taste4Success network manager Bridie Corrigan Matthews. “Feedback from the inaugural Rejuvenate programme participants has been extremely positive and it is wonderful to witness these skilled women regain their confidence and re-engage with their sector. It is rewarding to see women support each other, especially our guest speakers who were so generous with their time”.
Founded in 2008, the Taste4Success Skillnet is a strategic collaboration between a growing number of member companies across a number of food and beverage sub-sectors including production, processing, artisan and services. Member companies range in size from micro indigenous artisan producers to large international conglomerates.
“We started with 19 members and now have around 500 companies participating in our training and upskilling programmes each year,” says Corrigan Mathews. “The food industry is about science. That sometimes gets lost when people consider other sectors like pharma and so on. We are about science, taste, innovation and life. The agrifood sector is the largest employer in Ireland and we help firms to realise new opportunities by providing training which helps them in areas such as new product development and innovation.”
The Rejuvenate programme dates back to early 2019 when the food industry was dealing with skills shortages and women who had taken a break from careers in the sector were identified as a potential solution to the problem.
“We know that lots of women take career breaks to raise children or take on other caring responsibilities,” she explains. “Over time, children grow up and their circumstances change, and they might have time to return to the workforce.”
She points out that many of these women are effectively invisible when it comes to training initiatives because they are not in receipt of Department of Social Protection or other payments.
Taste4Success collaborated with UCC to put together a programme to help women who had previously worked in the agrifood sector refresh their skills and knowledge.
One of the key issues to deal with was the lack of confidence displayed by many of the participants. “They felt they had lost touch with their skills, knowledge and qualifications. They needed help and support with that. We worked with them on a variety of areas to assist with that. For example, the jobs market has changed, and the way CVs are presented to appeal to employers has changed as well. We helped them put together CVs with a wow factor.”
Practical experience was key. “The work-based projects where the most important aspect of the programme,” says Corrigan Mathews. “We got people into a safe space where they could work in areas associated with our member companies. Their work was guided and supervised by the team in UCC.”