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"I felt like I had a mountain to climb": How these young Dubliners got back to work

The Career LEAP initiative sees young people receive training and work placements to boost their career prospects.

A NEW EDUCATIONAL programme designed to equip young, unemployed people in Dublin’s north inner city with the skills they need to get ahead in the workplace has seen its first participants succeed in finding work.

Pic Sharppix Maura Hickey Maura Hickey

A programme which is unique internationally according to researchers, Career LEAP managed to bring together businesses and community groups to recognise the value that these young people could bring to the workplace.

Designed for young people who may have been left behind by formal education or personal circumstance, participants on the programme have excelled in recent months.

Leon Fay, aged 19 from Dublin 1, had completed his Leaving Certificate and attended a PLC course in 2014 but did not complete it. Apart from some voluntary experience at his local youth club he had never worked prior to taking part in Career LEAP.

“It was really hard,” he told “I was applying for jobs and being told I needed so many years experience. I was sceptical at first about this course, but it’s made a massive difference.”

Specifically looking at young people in Dublin’s north inner city, Career LEAP aims to take a collaborative approach in helping those into the world of work who had experienced difficulties finding a job.

Pic Sharppix Leon Fay receiving his certificate of completion of the Career LEAP programme. Maura Hickey Maura Hickey

Leon was lucky to get involved at all, having only completed his application and sending it on the final day for submissions. “I’m very glad I did it,” he said.

He successfully completed the training and completed his three weeks work placement with Arnotts. He praised the interactive elements of the course, and said he really benefited from the approach to learning that was completely different from secondary school.

He said: “I felt like I had a mountain to climb, but it’s given me such a confidence boost. I’ve learned so much from it.”

While Leon had his eye on working in retail, he said that the course was beneficial to all involved, no matter their career prospects.

Leon received excellent feedback from his workplace supervisor and was offered a full-time contract with Arnotts, which he accepted.

“I really can’t emphasis enough how great it was,” he added. “It was a massive success for me, and for others.”

Carlos Donovan, aged 23, is also from Dublin 1. He’d been unemployed since 2015, and was unable to find work until he enrolled on Career LEAP.

“It was a different type of course,” the told “It was all about how you prep yourself for work. It was fantastic.”

Pic Sharppix Carlos Donovan receiving his certificate of completion Maura Hickey Maura Hickey

Through the course, Carlos was able to develop crucial skills, particularly in networking, that he used to get a job with EIR after completing the programme.

He said:

It really gave me confidence. Everybody who did it is flying now.

It was a course where hard work was rewarded, according to Carlos. He explained that it equipped him with the mindset that he is now able for the world of work and hopes to continue using what he’s learned to excel.

“I would definitely recommend other people to do it. It’s really helped me.”

Years of work

Career LEAP was put together by Professor Carmel O’Sullivan, head of the school of education at Trinity College Dublin, and a resident of Dublin’s north inner city.

She was conducting research into how businesses interact with communities in the area and, through her research, decided to design a programme based on what she had learned and see how beneficial it could be to young people in the area.

“Just getting a job doesn’t sustain young people,” she explains. “We know that traditional communities can be alienated and left behind. We needed to develop these young people to create their own career identity.”

The result was a thoroughly researched, strongly evidence-based programme, that trained both the young people on essential work skills and equipped businesses with a different mindset on how approach young people from different backgrounds.

“The results surprised us in their impact. These young people were able to think critically and creatively to workplace situations that they may not have been able to before.”

The pilot of this programme was successful, and further interventions are planned. “We’re going to incorporate what we’ve learned into a full study,” O’Sullivan said.

We recognise that people need different forms of education, and hope to refine and get it absolutely right next time.

The initiative has been popular in the local area, with many more eager to take part.

“I live here and I love my community. I meet some of the young people here and they’re saying to me “What’s this LEAP thing?”. I’d love to do it. I’ve been hearing that feedback.”


The eleven young people who completed Career Leap were awarded with certificates of participation by Minister Paschal Donohoe at the launch of the programme in Trinity Chapel last Wednesday.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform commended those who had taken part and said the initiative “provides a valuable route for young adults into the rewarding and fulfilling world of employment and/or education.”

He added that, in recent months, “the government has put a major initiative in place to further support the development and regeneration of this area”, and that Career Leap has built on that.

Pic Sharppix Minister Donohoe meeting participants from the programme Maura Hickey Maura Hickey

Director of Swan Youth Service, Mairéad Mahon, added that the programme “will greatly enhance their progression routes and their employability prospects”.

Mutual Benefits

Businesses that took part in the scheme hailed the “very strong impact” on their own workforce, for those who engaged with the young people while on placement.

The head of human resources at Bank of Ireland, Julie Sharp, said taking part was positive for both the bank and its workers, contributed to team-building and boosting motivation. “It was very rewarding for colleagues,” she added.

The Career LEAP programme was developed by Professor O’Sullivan, in conjunction with Swan Youth Service, East Wall Youth, Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), along with 18 prominent businesses in the area.

Pic Sharppix Community group representatives alongside participants Maura Hickey Maura Hickey

Community groups were quick to praise Career Leap as a shining example of businesses coming together with community organisations and youth services in a way that was beneficial to all involved.

The chief executive of the BITCI, Tina Roche, said that, through programmes like this, “we can build stronger more inclusive societies which is good for both society and business.”

A&L Goodbody expressed similar sentiments. Corporate responsibility manager, Sinéad Smith, commented: “We are also very keen to support the collaborative nature of the project which will measure the impact of what organisations can achieve together.”

With the positive results reported so far, Trinity College has said that many more are looking to sign up for another Career Leap course, which it’s hoped will run in 2017.

Read: Decision time: How to decide on the career that’s (hopefully) right for you

Read: Losing a job is the single most negative event a person can experience

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