THE Women's Tec based in North Belfast has been in existence for 25 years. Its mission is to enable women and girls to access careers in industries where they are under-represented.
It started when women from Windsor Women's Centre wanted to do a joinery course but found it was more difficult than they imagined. The idea then moved to the Women's Development and Resource Agency, then took a leap to Duncairn Gardens before finally landing in Chichester Avenue in a disused school.
Eleanor Jordan of Windsor Women's Centre and Joy Poots of Early Years South Belfast were the two women who signed the original Articles of Association. Both women have made enormous contributions to grassroots organisations over the years and were in attendance last week at the Women's Tec celebrations in the MAC.
Speakers, including Ray Hutchinson of Gilbert Ash and Jane Brady of the NI Civil Service, spoke of their admiration for the organisation. Jane, an engineer from North Belfast, visited the organisation before taking up her current role and spoke of the organisation being a role model for what real public service is all about; and while 200,000 new jobs have been created since the Good Friday Agreement and 3rd level degrees have doubled this has not happened equally in all areas. The Women's Tec meets women and girls where they are at. Expanding its operation to a satellite in Newry with cross border courses, it has doubled the number of women and girls participating in its life-changing courses.
Chair Sylvia Gordon spoke of it as a place of banter and connection which acknowledges that everyone has difficult times and her proud sense of achievement of the whole organisational team. While representatives of the construction industry spoke of the Women's Tec as 'a solution to a problem that we did not know we had' . Applications for apprenticeships are down and as one young women demonstrated it was a summer scheme in car mechanics that changed the direction of her career objectives. She spoke of her mothers desire to be a mechanic's but her granny putter her off it.
While gender stereotyping in careers is changing, we know it will be some time before the Women's Tec vision of an inclusive, sustainable society and economy where women's and girls can reach their full potential is attained. On another note, the Women's Tec exemplified for me what sometimes boards can achieve if they hold their nerve. In my thirties I was on its board for five years and three years as Chair. Someone once whispered in my ear that the only reason I was elected Chair was that the organisation was expected to fold. Yet here it is after 25 years and counting with a new strategy for a purpose-built building, partners in all areas of construction and the ability to transform women's and girls' opportunities for their entire lives.
Lynne Carvill, Women's Tec CEO, has the job of leading the new strategy. They want to stay in North Belfast as it has served them well and sponsoring a new girls' football team with their 'Not Just for Boys' tagline is one step in the right direction.
If your're interested in helping the organisation reach its objectives contact them on email@example.com or phone 02890749810.