NI's FE colleges promote business recovery through part-time learning

  • Photo: 28-year-old Mark Donnelly signed up to a part-time Adult Access course at his local FE college

    All six of Northern Ireland’s Further Education (FE) colleges have launched a major drive to help put part-time learning, skills, and business support at the heart of economic recovery post Covid-19.

    Located in all key economic centres across Northern Ireland, including Belfast, Derry, Newry, Bangor, Ballymena and Enniskillen, the six colleges employ more than 5,200 staff, support over 78,000 part-time students.

    They also provide business mentoring and services to over 10,000 organisations including Terex, Ryobi, Microsoft, Selective Travel and First Derivatives.

    Last year, more than 78,700 students of all ages were enrolled on more than 1,660 part-time courses and training programmes across the region, as well as a range of accessible Higher Education options.

    RELATED: Nearly 3,000 students will receive qualifications this year with partial reopening of FE colleges

    Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “For the last two decades, the FE sector has undergone a remarkable transformation and it will be a vital pillar in our economic recovery.

    “The impressive suite of quality part-time courses on offer provides an opportunity for people to enhance their skills, improve their employability and even change careers. This is an invaluable asset and an investment in everyone’s future.”

    Switching careers

    After working as an electrician for eight years, 28-year-old Mark Donnelly signed up to a part-time Adult Access course at his local FE college, to pursue his dream job in healthcare.

    He said this provided him with a direct route to progress a career in diagnostic radiography.

    With work experience provided as part of his studies at Belfast’s Royal Victoria and City Hospitals, Mark went on to Ulster University and graduated with a first-class honours degree.

    Now fully qualified and working in NI’s healthcare sector, Mark said: “I love my job! The support I received from my FE College was exceptional. The lecturers went above and beyond to help us every day.

    “There was also great financial support in the form of a bursary. I enjoyed learning as much as I could and knowing that I was on a path to changing my career to one that would bring me real job satisfaction and a life-changing experience.”

    RELATED: NI's FE colleges encourage students to stay close to home for study

    FE colleges deliver part-time education courses, online learning and flexible career development opportunities for people of all ages.

    Brian Doran, principal and chief executive at Southern Regional College said: “At no point in our history has the focus on skills, education and business support ever been more important.

    “Open, accessible and affordable – all six FE colleges are strategically located and already well-placed to make a real and positive impact on people’s lives and their prospects and on their confidence for the future.

    “As we move towards recovery, and as we continue to adhere to government guidelines, this is now the right time for everyone to evaluate their part-time options, improve their skills and unleash the pent-up creativity and innovation which will be needed to help steer our economy forward.”

    All six colleges have already been helping many small businesses move to an online presence so they can continue their business remotely during lockdown.

    They are also offering a range of fully funded online courses which can be accessed from mobile phones, computers and tablet devices and are funded by the Department for the Economy’s Skills Focus Programme.

    In recent weeks, thousands of students and staff have also combined their time, talents and skills gained through their college courses to support frontline efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

    For support, information and advice, contact your local regional FE college; South Eastern Regional College, South West College, Southern Regional College, North West Regional College, Northern Regional College or Belfast Metropolitan College.

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