Wednesday 26 June 2019

'I panicked, I thought I’m 45, who’s going to hire me now?' - Mum-of-two credits free masters with helping her return to the workforce

Eleanor Cobbe
Eleanor Cobbe
Eleanor Cobbe
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

“When you’re at home full-time, if someone asks you ‘do you work?’, there’s a sense that because you’re at home – even though you’re doing work part-time – you’re not working.”

Eleanor Cobbe (47) worked in science for more than 10 years until her first son arrived. From then, she knew she wanted to take time out of the workforce to be with her sons.

She says Ireland still has a long way to go in how it views the homemaker or the parent who chooses to stay at home with their kids.

“And that’s women as well as men. Something has to give. Something always gives. We can’t be super people. We want to have our careers, we want to be there for our children.... But now I finally feel that I do have a happy medium.”

The mum-of-two, who trained and worked as a counsellor while rearing her two boys, used to fit sessions with her clients around family life.

In time though, science started calling again and she felt an urge to go back to work.

“I panicked, I thought I’m 45, who’s going to hire me now? And I got a job in a company, and I felt like The Intern, you know the film with De Niro, I felt like the granny coming in because there were a lot of young graduates there.”

“I also felt that the 12-year gap [between this and her last full-time role] was too much... That feeling of inadequacy was there if you like.”

“I felt de-skilled, and that was the main reason I said I’m going to have to upskill myself again.”

Eleanor enrolled in a free part-time masters programme through Springboard+, which provides free higher education courses to unemployed people, those previously self-employed and those returning to work.

Some courses are also free for the employed, others are 90pc funded by the Government and participants pay 10pc.

Eleanor did her masters in regulatory affairs, and now works as a quality compliance officer in Eirgen.

“Regulatory affairs appealed to me, I felt it was a science-based admin role which ticked all the boxes.”

“I was lucky to get a four-day week, Eirgen have been very accommodating. I found that as soon as I updated my LinkedIn profile to say I’d done a masters, I was inundated with emails from recruiters.”

“I’d never have done it if it wasn’t free, and it was over two evenings and a weekend so it fitted perfectly. I could fit my clients and my family around it.”

“One of the main things that drew me to the job advertisement was it said ‘flexible’… I was quite happy to ask [for a four-day week]. As a mature student, a mature individual, you just go with what you want.”

“I’m still at home with my two sons fifteen minutes after they get home in the evenings, so I can be there to help them sit down and devise study plans. My oldest has his Junior Cert this year so I can be there to help him study.”

“What’s really helped is the people I work with have been really, really open and accommodating.”

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