The Skills @ Work Programme: A Student’s Perspective

By Marie Coady, former Our Lady’s College Galway student.

My family’s working history is mostly made up of labourers, which made getting career information for someone indoors-y and bookish like myself difficult. Luckily, the BITCI Skills @ Work (S@W) programme enlightened me to the career prospects that would be more enjoyable and involve significantly fewer stains and injuries for myself.

In 2015, my Fifth Year class in Presentation Secondary School Galway was linked with IBM, who gave us talks on subjects including the work of IBM, C.V. drafting and interview preparation. This concluded with a visit to the IBM offices, where we toured the building, listened to employees talk about their work, and participated in mock job interviews. Most students don’t get to experience these things until they leave school, so it was a fantastic opportunity to get our bearings.

I can honestly say the S@W programme set me on the right course in life. I had always enjoyed writing and technology, and it was while meeting IBM employees that I discovered that I could combine these two passions through technical writing. I realised I wanted to focus on sharpening my writing, communication and technical skills, so I chose to do a BA in Journalism, IT & Philosophy in NUI Galway. I am in my final year and am hoping to do an MA in Technical Communication & E-Learning upon graduation.

The S@W programme also opened my mind to the fact that linear career progression is rare. The media can paint a misleading picture of employment for young people – you’d assume that to get anywhere in life, you must obtain a STEM, Business or Law degree with first-class honours and then stay in the first job you get for life. Contrarily, I remember meeting IBM employees who had previously been fast food workers or teachers.

Furthermore, there was a strong focus on the value of creativity, people skills and group work. I think this is empowering when you are not the smartest or most confident person in the class, or when you come from a humble background. And of course, as an all-girls school, it didn’t hurt that we met so many high-flying women at IBM!

L to R: Emily O’Neill, Offering Manager, IBM Watson Health, Fiona Neary, Business Development Manager at NUIG, Orla Prendergast, Operations Lead, IBM Galway

IBM, has recently received an ITAG IT in the Community Award for their ongoing and tremendous work on our Skills @ Work programme with Our Lady’s College, Galway over the last 10 years.