Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Maria O'Neill from STEPS to give some advice for people considering this job:


Maria O'Neill

Civil Engineer


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  Maria O'Neill

If you like working with others, and like problem solving then its definitely worth considering. Do you ever look at a bridge/skyscraper etc. and wonder how they did that? Or better still, are you looking at the way the road at home is laid out and thinking if they had of done something differently it would have been better.

Engineering is not a career people think about and say its helping people, but in many ways it is rewarding and just as much about helping people. Engineers design things used everyday that help people get to work, provide clean water, provide sewerage systems, care for the environment....


The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with clever technology. They will often follow the latest developments in their chosen field, and prefer mentally stimulating environments.
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VTOS Schemes

Education and Training Boards (ETBs) replaced Vocational Educational Committees (VECs) and are run by the Department of Education and Skills. 

Courses must be full time and can take as long as two years and lead to qualifications such as Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) certificates.

VTOS aims to give unemployed people education and training opportunities that will help them find a job, and to prepare people to go to paid employment or to further educational opportunities leading to paid employment.

If you are registered as unemployed, you will not have to 'sign on' at your local Social Welfare Office while on a VTOS course.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to a small lunch allowance and a travel allowance depending on how far you have to travel to the VTOS centre. You may also get some childcare support. The VTOS allowance is not means-tested, so you may work without it affecting your payment. Students on VTOS usually receive free books and materials at the start of their course. VTOS payments are made for a maximum of 2 years.

You can qualify for VTOS if you are:

  • aged at least 21
  • In receipt of any the following payments:

-Jobseekers Allowance/Benefit
-One-Parent Family Payment
-Disability Allowance
-Illness Benefit
-Invalidity Pension
-Blind Pension
-Deserted Wife's Allowance
-Deserted Wife's Benefit
-Widow's or Widowers Non and Contributory Pensions
-Prisoners Wife's Allowance

  • have not been engaged in paid employment for at least 6 months before you start the course.

Note: recipients of Illness Benefit must get permission from the Department to start a VTOS course.

If you are getting an unemployment payment and you are getting an increase for your spouse or partner, they may also participate in VTOS.

For further information on the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme VTOS, contact your local education and training board

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ask the experts
  Hint: An Garda Síochána
I applied online. I had to pass a series of online exams testing my reasoning and decision making.

The biggest hurdle is an interview in which I needed to display 5 competencies;
  • resiliance
  • interpersional skills
  • commitment to a role
  • serving the public
  • problem solving 
  • personal effectiveness

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