What’s your job?
I’m a child care assistant at an Irish language nursery and look after children who are between 18-months-old up until two years and 10 months.
How did you get there?
I’ve always loved working with kids and when I was younger I was a child care worker in Dublin, where I’m from. Fourteen years ago I moved to Belfast and I didn’t really know anyone so I did a course in first aid with Gems NI just to get out of the house and meet people. I wanted to work but didn’t know what to do as my childcare qualification from Dublin didn’t apply in Northern Ireland. I heard about EmployAbility South jobs’ support project and they put me on a training course to get my Level 2 qualification. I could only afford to do this because the programme included free childcare while I was working on the qualification. My two-year-old son got a place at An Droichead and so when I was ready for my placement, I asked if I could work there. I was made permanent in July.
Do you have a typical working day?
We have a breakfast club that starts at 7.30am and we give the kids their meal and then everyone goes up to their various rooms or outside to play in the garden at 9am. The children get amazingly healthy meals here. After morning break we play jigsaws or sing songs. The children sleep from 12.30 to 2pm and after that we get them another break and play some more before they go home at 6pm.
What qualifications do you have?
In addition to the level 2 childcare that I did with EmployAbility South, I’m now doing my level 3 which will take a year to complete. I also have a paediatric first aid qualification.
What other skills do you need in your role?
It’s important to know how to talk to people and to be good at communicating with the parents and being able to give them good information on their child’s day. You need patience and a sense of fun. I love dancing so we put the radio on and we all dance around – the children know this so they always run to me and ask me to put on music.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I love the kids and it’s such a pleasure going into work. The people I work with are lovely too. There are four to five carers to a room so you get to know everyone.
And the worst?
I can’t think of a single thing that I don’t like.
What do you think are the greatest challenges of the job?
This is an Irish language nursery and so it has been a challenge really getting the language, especially when I started the job. While I’d known some from my childhood, I’m really picking it up now.
What did you want to be when you were at school?
I wanted to be a social worker so I could help children and families.
What advice would you give someone considering a career in your profession?
Get your qualifications and go for it. The kids are brilliant and you’ll never regret the chance to help them learn at such a young age. Part of what we do is observing the kids and making sure they meet their milestones. So, for example, a child should be able to count to 10 or know their colours or put together a simple jigsaw. If you see a child isn’t able to do something then you work with them one-to-one to bring them on.
What’s the most common question people ask when they find out what you do?
Are you mad?
I already have four children so they think it’s funny that I choose to work with kids. I always loved working with children and I’m very good with them I have a lot of time and patience for them so it’s perfect for me.
How do you like to relax outside work?
A cuppa and a bath or going out to dinner with my family.