When NUI Galway planned a “Dress for Success” day for young people keen to return to education or find work, the invitation was issued to migrants and other vulnerable groups experiencing barriers.
All 15 participants were women - mainly because the Dress for Success charity was founded to promote women’s economic independence.
However, the increasing marginalisation of young men suggests such career advice sessions should be gender-neutral, NUI Galway’s (NUIG) head of Access programming Imelda Byrne has said.
“All the research is showing that young men are becoming increasingly under-represented in their own right, in addition to groups facing obstacles such as Travellers, those living in direct provision, and people with disabilities,” Ms Byrne said.
“Recognising that, it may be that we hold sessions like these in the future in a different format,” she says.
Six residents of the Eglinton direct provision hostel in Galway, one member of the Travelling community and several women with disabilities participated in the sessions in the Aula Maxima, organised with NUIG’s office of the Vice President for Equality and Diversity.
Dress for Success volunteers Margaret Byrne and Janet Connolly teamed up with NUIG’s Access programme staff to provide a stylist and advice, and one-to-one career sessions.
Priscilla Uwoze Ehledu (37) from Nigeria is a mother of two children, holds a BA in music and said she hoped to study further and “add to this society where I am now”.
"In many ways I can, in music, in caring and in voluntary work, help out people because they too have also helped me,” Ms Uwoze Ehledu said.
Basra Ishmail (32), also from Nigeria, has been in Ireland for three years and is still awaiting the result of her asylum application, but said she hopes to develop her skills in information technology.
“They prepare you for everything, including what to wear and the questions you might get in an interview and the advice on future planning for your career,” Ms Ishmail said.
Access students secure a diploma in foundation studies which guarantees them a place in further third-level education. The programme, which is designed for school leavers and mature students who cannot get to third-level by standard routes, is run in a number of universities and institutes of technology across the State.
Over 3,600 students have enlisted for NUIG’s Access programme since it was established 20 years ago, initially as a pilot project. Among successful participants in Galway is Olga O’Mahony, who now has a PhD, lectures in Maths at NUIG and is Access programme co-ordinator for mature students.
A report presented to Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor shows that some 62% of students were female, compared to 38% male.