Ten minutes with Kim Mulcahy, Manager of the National Apprenticeship Office

"I believe apprenticeships will grow from strength to strength over the next number of years and will be a very sought after career path for school leavers and career changers," says NAO Manager Kim Mulcahy.

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How did you get started in your role?

I began my career working in my local hometown of Nenagh in various office roles. In 2015 I decided I wanted to progress my career and looked for opportunities further afield. In October 2015 I was offered a temporary role on the apprenticeship team in SOLAS as project assistant, I took a leap of faith and decided to take up the role which increased my daily commute by 3 hours, but I really wanted to see what opportunities were out there!

I worked my way up from project assistant to project officer and eventually got a permanent position in 2018. In 2019 I was given the opportunity to expand my career again and left my permanent position in SOLAS to take a sideways move to join the work-based learning team in ETBI. Here I worked on a number of work-based learning initiatives including apprenticeships and gained invaluable experience.

Celebrating the 100th apprentice at Hanley Calibration; Pictured are NAO Manager Kim Mulcahy, Minister Simon Harris, Apprentice Barbora Trčková

While working in ETBI I had the opportunity to do a management and leadership course to enable me to further progress my leadership and management skills. During my time in ETBI I was still involved in a lot of apprenticeship work but I did miss being at the core of new developments especially with the exciting ambitions of the Apprenticeship Action Plan 2020 – 2025. In 2021 I saw a role for assistant manager on the apprenticeship team in SOLAS advertised and decided to apply. This role involved working on the craft apprenticeship team. This brought my experience working on apprenticeship full circle as I now had experience working across all aspects of apprenticeship.

While working as assistant manager on the craft team I was asked to assist the transition team setting up the National Apprenticeship Office which I was delighted to do. This brings me to my current role as Transformation & Development Manager within the NAO which I am very much enjoying. While it is a very busy role, I love the challenge of establishing a new office and all the learning opportunities that go with the dynamic environment.

Why did you choose to work with the National Apprenticeship Office?

I chose to work in the National Apprenticeship Office as I am very passionate about the work of the office. I believe the apprenticeship model of learning is a great choice for employers and apprentices. I would have definitely gone down the apprenticeship route myself after school had the opportunity been there. I struggled through my leaving certificate years and found learning within that environment difficult. I decided not to go down the college route and started into the workforce straight after school and later going back and completing my college course at night. The apprenticeship model would very much have suited me and I am delighted that it is an option for so many school leavers and career changers now.

What are you working on at present?

Right now a big focus is the 2023 Apprentice of the Year awards. As part of our promotion of the wonderful apprenticeship opportunities available, these awards showcase the fantastic apprentices we have all around the country. Over 220 apprentices have been nominated from the 25,000+ apprentices currently in training, I am very much looking forward to the awards event, meeting these apprentices and hearing all about the invaluable input they are having in the work force.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is stakeholder engagement; getting to meet the fantastic apprentices that are taking up apprenticeship opportunities and the employers that are finding and retaining excellent talent. I am also very proud to be working with all the apprenticeship stakeholders to expand and enhance the apprenticeship system in Ireland.

What is a defining career moment or high point?

I am very lucky and fortunate to have been involved in some great initiatives over the last number of years, including establishing apprenticeship competitions and awards showcasing the apprenticeship community. The employer of the year awards last year held in the Morrison Hotel Dublin were a real highlight for me, it was great to be able to host the awards again in person following Covid restrictions in the previous years and I am very much looking forward to the Workplace Champion awards this year where again we will get to meet the people working on the ground every day with apprentices, imparting their knowledge and experience.

Kim Mulcahy and Lorraine Courtney from the National Apprenticeship Office pictured at World Skills 2022.

Where do you see your industry five years from now?

I believe apprenticeships will grow from strength to strength over the next number of years and will be a very sought after career path for school leavers and career changers.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received?

How you react when things don’t go your way is very important. Hold your head up high and continue doing your best. What’s for you won’t pass you.

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice at the start of your career, what would that be?

Believe in yourself and take the chances.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about interviewing for this position?

If you are passionate and interested in what you do you will succeed.

What would you say are the key skills and capabilities necessary to be good at what you do?

Communication. I firmly believe effective communication skills are key to anything we do in life.

What is the best career lesson you have learned so far?

Take the chances and leaps of faith, you never know where they will lead you to and all the characters you meet along the way will help shape you into the career person you want to be. Take the learnings from the bad and the good.

Which industry professionals should people be following on Twitter/ LinkedIn?

Of course, I have to say Apprenticeship Ireland on LinkedIn and on twitter.

Is there a particular book or resource you’d recommend to someone early in their career?

While I do love to read, I mainly read for leisure. One book that has stayed with me throughout the years is ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini. When you read about the oppression and hardship many women undergo it really makes you want to stand up and be counted! I also like to listen to podcasts and Ted talks relating to effective communication.


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