NI's Further Education colleges help in COVID-19 frontline battle

  • Photo: SWC media lecturer Larry Lowe is fundraising with his song 'Not Forever'

    Thousands of students and staff from Northern Ireland’s Further Education (FE) colleges have been involved in the production of PPE equipment and the fit out of COVID-19 facilities at hospitals.

    The North West and Southern Regional Colleges have produced and delivered hundreds of face shields for frontline workers across local health trusts, and Belfast Met has loaned local medical firm Axial 3D eight 3D printers in its production of hundreds of face shields.

    In more traditional techniques, South West College Community Lecturer Nicola Birnie has created craft kits for students, which they are using to sew face masks and ear savers for staff in local hospitals and care homes.  


    Belfast Met has donated 3D printers to Axial3D

    Belfast Met Level 3 City and Guilds Textiles student Maria O’Prey has also sewn dozens of cotton face masks for local care homes, as well as for colleagues in her part-time job at Tesco.  At South East Regional College, Level 3 Foundation Diploma in Art & Design student Tetiana Nestorenko and science lecturer Linda Lytle have also handsewn dozens of masks for staff at Ards Community Hospital.

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    Stanley Chapman, a Level 3 Electrical Apprentice from South East Regional College, has been working 12-hour shifts as part of the team installing the lighting system in a new part of the Ulster Hospital, to get it ready for wards that will be required in the coming weeks.


    (c) North West Regional College

    Northern Regional College lecturer Jacqui McAllister is volunteering as a healthcare assistant on the COVID-19 wards at Antrim Area Hospital during her weekends off, choosing to donate her pay for this work to Ulster University’s COVID-19 testing fundraising appeal.

    Former Southern Regional College Access and Health and Social Care student Louise Graham is now a nurse working on the COVID-19 ward in Craigavon Area Hospital, with former student Emma Hamilton also covering nursing shifts across Craigavon, Daisy Hill and the Royal Victoria Hospitals. 

    Thousands of students are also considered key workers at this time, serving in a range of roles in local supermarkets, community pharmacies and agri-food factories and production lines.

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    Messages of support and encouragement

    Others are turning to music as a source of support and encouragement. South West College Media lecturer Larry Lowe is encouraging people to listen to messages of hope in his song, ‘Not Forever’ and donate what they can to Omagh Foodbank and Support 2gether. Music students at North West Regional College also produced two recorded online performances as a special tribute to the NHS.


    South West College Community Lecturer Nicola Birnie

    More than 61,000 students are currently studying across the six colleges in Northern Ireland. 

    Speaking on behalf of all the colleges’ principals, Professor Terri Scott at Northern Regional College said: “We have been greatly inspired by the tremendous demonstrations of solidarity and support from thousands of our students and staff in proactively giving their skill, talent and time to support others during these unprecedent times.

    “Alongside their efforts to study and teach remotely from home, we have seen them really pull together to make what is, collectively, a very tangible and even lifesaving contribution to the frontline efforts to fight Coronavirus in Northern Ireland.” 


    Southern Regional College former student Emma Hamilton

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    Source: Written from press release

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