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Cross-border community project empowering women to develop skills for STEM and trade-specific roles

Posted On: 02 Jul 2024



(Published with the kind permission of the International Fund for Ireland)

A cross-border community project supporting women to develop skills and competencies for STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) related roles and trade occupations such as carpentry and plumbing, has marked progress to date on an 18-month project with an event hosted by Creative Spark and WOMEN’STEC at the Enterprise FabLab, Dundalk.

Participants from communities across Louth, Newry, Mourne and Down gathered to share insights and learnings including a visual display showcasing individual perspectives and experiences gained from the project. To date, fifty-one women completed training and skills development in a variety of STEM disciplines and trades including plumbing and carpentry.

Project lead, the Centre for Cross Border Studies (CCBS), an organisation focused on building capacity and training for cross-border co-operation, Creative Spark, a hub for creativity and innovation, and WOMEN’STEC, the largest training provider for women in non-traditional skills and trades in Northern Ireland combined to deliver initiatives under CBenACT (Cross-Border: enACTing cooperation) project.

It is supported by the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) with funding of over €118,000 under its Community in Partnership Programme (CiPP). CBenACT aims to address the interconnected issues facing border communities and equip organisations on both sides of the border with the skills and training to deliver cross-border activities and initiatives.

Through this, Creative Spark and WOMEN’STEC, collaborated to deliver skills and training for women addressing both the educational and employability challenges facing women from across these specific regions.

Speaking at the event, IFI Board Member Sadie Ward McDermott said: “On behalf of the IFI, I want to acknowledge the ambition and clear focus of all involved in the delivery of this project, which sought to address the employability, education and skills attainment challenges facing women from the Louth, Mourne, Newry and Down regions.

“The work carried out by the Centre for Cross Border Studies in collaboration with partners in this project Creative Spark and WOMEN’STEC has facilitated the development of project participants’ capacity building and the development of the necessary skills and training, for organisations like Creative Spark and WOMEN’STEC to collaborate which supports the project aims and its focus on an initiative which is having a real and meaningful impact in communities.

“It has provided participants with the skills and knowledge and the confidence to explore new opportunities, but most of all it has led to the development of sustainable, collaborative relationships across communities, working towards development of positive and lasting good relationships between communities north and south which ultimately supports the IFI goals of working toward a lasting peace and sustainability within communities.”

Anthony Soares, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies, said: “As the Lead Partner in the CBenACT project, supported by the International Fund for Ireland, the real satisfaction is hearing the individual stories from the women and our partners – Creative Spark and WOMEN’STEC – have brought to this project. To hear about the learning and the skills in STEM/STEAM they have taken from the project, and how they have brought those home to their families and communities on both sides of the border, is evidence of the impact we are trying to achieve. It is also great to see how this project is building a sustainable cross-border partnership between WOMEN’STEC and Creative Spark where the sharing of their respective resources and skills will benefit the communities they serve in both jurisdictions.”

Ciara Breen, Creative Spark Downtown Hub, said, “The CBenAct project has been a great opportunity to forge and strengthen relationships between Creative Spark and WOMEN’STEC Newry. Working with the women’s groups from Lislea, Hilltown, and Dundalk has helped to examine the appetite for collaborative projects using the strengths of both organisations in the future. It was great to see the connections formed between all three groups during the project and the desire each woman has to continue learning new skills. I believe there will be ample opportunity to work together with these groups in the future.”

Lynn Carvill, CEO of WOMEN’STEC, said: “WOMEN’STEC has been delighted to be part of this cross-border project, working with the Centre for Cross-Border Studies and Creative Spark. Working at a cross-border level is not without challenges but these can easily be overcome when women enthusiastically come together to explore new ideas and try out new skills. The STEM / STEAM agenda is central to the work of WOMEN’S TEC and Creative Spark, and it was a joy and indeed inspirational to watch the women embrace these new skills and knowledge. We very much look forward to developing our relationship with Creative Spark, opening further opportunities for the women and girls we work with in the Border area.”

Pictured are Lynn Carvill, WOMEN’S TEC; Seun Grace Atiroko, Creative Spark; Sarah Daly, Creative Spark; Anthony Soares, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies; Roisin O’Hanlon, Lislea Lively Ladies and Sadie Ward McDermott, Board Member, IFI