NI careers fair tackling IT/engineering skill shortages

  • The Skills NI careers fair is coming to the TEC Belfast on 20-21 November 2019 to “act as a one-stop expo and interactive experience for young people looking for careers inspiration and information”.

    With Brexit uncertainty and a changing employment landscape looming, the event hopes to tackle the current skill shortages within the IT and engineering sectors across Northern Ireland.

    Aimed at 14-19 year olds, their parents and teachers, the Skills Northern Ireland exhibition will feature an “Ambassador Hub”. Here visitors can meet apprentices, employees and students from local companies, colleges and universities, to help inspire and equip them with the best information to achieve their dream jobs.

    Ailish McLaughlin from Derry/Londonderry and Sarah Quinn from Dunmurry are two of said Ambassadors who will share their career stories.

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    Ailish has worked with energy company NIE Networks as a Connections Estimating and Sales Manager for six years. She joined after achieving a First Class honours Masters degree (MEng) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

    The 29-year-old, who studied A-levels in politics, history, maths and physics at Thornhill College in the city, originally planned a very different job.

    Ailish McLaughlin, NIE Networks

    She said: “Growing up I had always planned to study law, but when my physics teacher mentioned there were lots of opportunities in engineering I reconsidered.”

    When Ailish learned that the career could also open doors overseas, she decided instead to apply for the MEng course at QUB which includes four years of study and a one-year work placement.

    “I applied to NIE Networks for a placement year in 2010 between the second and third years of my degree. The chance to gain meaningful hands-on experience within the industry was fundamental for increasing my chances of employment after graduation.

    “I began my career as a Graduate Engineer at NIE Networks and I have held many different roles during my time with the company.  My first role was as a planning engineer for renewable generation connection before moving into the role of project engineer which involved duties such as switching out the electricity infrastructure and managing large scale jobs at construction stage. I then got the opportunity to work on a project to prepare the connections business for opening of the market before moving into my current role as Connections Estimating and Sales Manager."

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    Ailish added that working in NIE Networks has provided her with many different opportunities and experiences: “In my current role, I enjoy working with my team to bring in efficiencies and improvements were possible. I have had the opportunity to go on several different training courses to further my management skills which has really helped me to develop both personally and professionally.

    “If you are thinking of a career in engineering – go for it! The job opportunities are great and can lead you to a career where you are constantly learning and growing particularly at a time where engineering is at the forefront of developing technologies.” 

    Sarah Quinn, a Workday Integration Consultant at Kainos, cites tech-savvy female TV figures and a passionate teacher as her inspiration for pursuing a career in IT.

    “Having studied Computer Science at school, I developed an interest in the field and was actively encouraged by my teacher to pursue it, believing IT to be an excellent career path for young people in Northern Ireland,” she commented.

    Sarah Quinn, Kainos

    With no previous experience, but a desire to follow in the footsteps of her coding role models, Sarah made the decision to apply for an apprenticeship with Kainos.  She continued: “I knew an apprenticeship could offer me a head start in my IT career, and I’m glad that I did because I’ve really loved working in this industry so far.

    “I study in university one day a week so I’m still learning in a formal way, but I have also had so much training within Kainos. My induction training was fantastic, it involved plenty of technical activities as well as quite a few presentations and workshops from various departments in the company to get us up to speed both in terms of skill and professional culture. This training was totally focussed on new apprentices so it worked well, and I felt competent and confident by the end to start my new role.”

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    Having originally joined Kainos as an Apprentice Software Engineer in 2017, Sarah quickly progressed to become a Workday Integration Consultant. She described a typical day: “I engage with customers, experienced consultants and third party vendors to integrate different systems, creating bespoke solutions for our customers. Now I’m in a customer facing role where I'm still presented with technical challenges – it’s the perfect combination for me!

    “I went to events like Skills Northern Ireland a few years ago when I was in school. I chatted to people working at Kainos which made me really consider their apprenticeship scheme, so I know from experience that events like this can have a real impact on young people.”

    To find out more about the event visit Skills Northern Ireland.

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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