Career Stories

Gemma Linehen, Apprentice Mechanic, Cork

Gemma Linehan pictured in CIT, Cork where she is studying as an apprentice mechanic. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

My name is Gemma Linehan and I’m currently a student in Cork Education Training Centre in Bishopstown. Im serving my time just outside Mallow, in a garage, Ballyhass Motors, with my father. I am on phase 7 (fourth year) of my apprenticeship training to become a Motor Mechanic. Almost there! It all began when I was younger, seeing my grandfather and father having such dedication and interest, so determined, so much passion, that it always made me wonder what it was like to have a job that was completely different.

That every day you are learning something new, not just a job where you turn around in the morning and think to yourself “ugh work in the morning”, instead a job that I also felt passion for.


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tradeswoman mechanic

When I was younger I use to take part in hot rod racing, and that’s where I felt all the interest come in, and in secondary school I found myself helping my father out in the garage a lot more. I wasn’t doing jobs too elaborate, I was just changing tyres and other basic jobs around the garage. Every day was a different day in the workshop, learning something new every day, changing what skills you use every day, meeting someone new every day! I found that I really enjoyed working with my hands rather than sitting in an office or a classroom for the day because I am the sort of girl that likes to keep on my feet and move around. One day when I came home from school I was with my father, and a woman came looking for us to fix a problem in her car. Little did I know that she was working with Cork training centre. My father starting talking to her. She found it rare that a girl would be helping her father out in the garage, and started to ask me questions about cars, and if I enjoyed working with them. She mentioned that she worked there, and asked if I would like to study more about cars in the centre, and then went through the way college worked. At first I was shocked at the offer, and was not sure what to think because I knew that there were not many women in this line of work. But as I thought about it more and more, I felt it was a good idea to try to get in to this line of work, because I enjoyed doing it and it’s what I wanted. I felt that just because there are a lot more men doing it than women, doesn’t mean women shouldn’t be able for it.

I will always remember the first day I started in the training centre, the smile on my teachers face, that proud look said it all. I was panicked all that time for nothing, fearing that you would be treated different for being the odd one out, but in fact I couldn’t have asked for better treatment! The support and encouragement that was provided was something outstanding. I feel in love with the procedure that Cork training centre had to offer us students, because they offer us a different way of learning, the reason being that throughout the apprenticeship we spend half our time in college and after, our time out on placement, which gives us a chance to see the real world. They provide us students the chance to show our skills, experiment and learn from our mistakes.

I’m delighted that I went for what I wanted even if it is classed as a “man’s job” because at the end of the day if it’s what you really want go for it, make no regrets. If I could change one thing it would definitely to see more women in this line of trade. A lot of women seem to think they wouldn’t be able for it but believe me we are definitely able for it! [/read]




Lisa Foley, Electrician, Longford

lisa foley electrician


One of the most frequently asked questions when I meet a new client is ‘how/why did you get into electrics’?

It was actually slightly accidental! When I was filling in my college application form, I had the notion that I wanted to do engineering. Ignoring the advice to ‘disregard the points needed but put your choices by preference,’ I filled out my application form. Electrical engineering was at the top of the list and much to my surprise when I got my Leaving Cert results I had enough points to get a place in GMIT. Seeing as it was my first choice, I had no option but to take it or wait a year and reapply. Civil engineering was second on the list but was actually my preferred choice!

So that’s how it all started out. I went to GMIT and studied Electronic Engineering. In a class of 44 there were 40 guys and 4 girls. In the years above and below us there were even less. It never bothered me; I liked the uncomplicatedness of the guys.

From then on things morphed a bit. I went to live in France for a year. My partner, a plumber, was working in the building trade. I helped him. People wanted little electrical jobs done. The system in France is a bit different to the Irish system, so armed with a book I learnt the French way.

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A great advantage of having a trade like electrics/ plumbing etc., is that generally that you can use your skills in other countries. I did a stint in the Caribbean for a while working on big yachts and their electrical systems. What’s not to like about that! I was the only female in the company doing electrics.  At the moment I am living in France working as an electrician. My work has been checked numerous times by ERDFs independent body that checks the system thoroughly before plugging into the ERDF grid. The inspectors have got to know me by now!

tradeswoman electricalThe builders are generally a bit shocked to see me arrive with my toolbox, but it’s quickly established that I am more than capable of doing just as good as a job as any man. It’s not rocket science and it’s not a trade that needs a huge amount of strength. Knocking holes in walls and chasing can give you a bit of a work out, but there are tools to help for that and I’m not too proud to ask for help if I need it, which is pretty rare, but the guys are usually happy to accommodate.  I’m kind of surprised that there aren’t more female electricians. In the area that I live at the moment I know of a female plumber and that’s it, there are no other tradeswomen that I have even heard of.

The clients can be equally surprised to see that it’s me doing the electrics and not my partner. To be honest it gives me a bit of a chuckle to see the reactions and it feels quite empowering!

My job can be challenging but I do enjoy it. I’m self-employed and I like being my own boss. Because I tend to work in ‘second’ homes they are usually old houses that need rewiring so no job is ever the same and no house is ever the same. Every job is something new. I can’t imagine sitting at a desk doing the same thing day in day out, mind you it’d be less dusty and I wouldn’t have to worry about the ‘builders bum’ syndrome! (Long tops and high waisted trousers are the way to go!)

One thing that’s nice about doing what I do is that my 5 yr old usually gives me his broken toys to mend. He sees both his dad and mum using tools, and it’s great that he is growing up without pre-conceived ideas about gender roles in work, its good too that it’s his dad who does the cooking!

As far as trades go, I believe any female can do just as good a job as a guy (leadwork, hod carrying i.e. heavy work maybe not), there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be more trades women about.

Go for it girls, break the mould!






Nuala Ward, Carpenter, Tiler & Landscaper, Galway

women in tradesNuala has managed to design a life’s work weaving together trades, art and community projects. In fact it sounds like you couldn’t keep her down if you tried. Even when she was diagnosed with crohns disease in her 20s and had to deal with the operations and illness that accompanied it, she kept herself busy learning new skills. She is self-taught in carpentry, tiling and landscaping amongst other things.

Although living with crohns made it difficult to get regular 9-5 work, she became known around her circle of friends and beyond for being the capable woman to call for a myriad of tasks and has often ended up on spontaneous repair jobs, hanging doors and such. She studied a FETAC level 5 in furniture design and making and has also since graduated in Fine Art at Cluain Mhuire, which she undertook part time over 7 years. At the graduation show she brought in her tools and paint gear to assist with the installation of the gallery display space. She ended up teaching some of the women who didn’t already know how to use tools to hang their own pieces.

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women in tradeNuala has also volunteered with a build crew after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti where she contributed her skills in block laying, pointing and roofing with a crew of Haitian locals and multinational helpers. Nuala believes that stereotyping and unrealistic expectations on men and women is the main barrier for young people, especially women, who would like to make a career in the Trades industry.

Her message to women is to just go for it! Experiment with tools and you will find the tools that work for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and embrace mistakes because that’s where knowledge is gained!
Nuala is a founding member of AMACH! LGBT Galway Ltd and is currently working with the volunteer run organisation to open the first LGBT resource centre in the west of Ireland Teach Solais. You can check out the updates here  and