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Southern Regional College were one of  six regional Further Education (FE) Colleges to visit The Long Gallery at Stormont to showcase their roles in widening participation to higher education.

Gerry Campbell, Colleges NI; Elizabeth Moran, Norbrook Laboratories; Asha Jamil, SRC Lecturer; Tracy Cummings, SRC Student; Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry and John Quinn, SRC Director.
Gerry Campbell, Colleges NI; Elizabeth Moran, Norbrook Laboratories; Asha Jamil, SRC Lecturer; Tracy Cummings, SRC Student; Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry and John Quinn, SRC Director.

The event, sponsored by the Committee for Employment and Learning, was attended by key stakeholders including business and trade unions representatives, MLAs, as well as staff and students from the six regional Further Education Colleges.   

A number of interactive exhibitions highlighting the range of Foundation Degrees, Higher Level Apprenticeships and Higher National Diploma courses offered by the FE sector were on display.   

The exhibitions included courses from right across the priority skill sectors, namely, ICT, financial services, advanced manufacturing, life and health sciences and creative industries & digital media.  

Employers were at hand to talk about their role in engaging with the Colleges. Norbrook Laboratories are involved in the Higher Level Apprenticeship in Applied Industrial Sciences (Chemical Science) offered by Southern Regional College

The event also included a musical recital from Southern Regional College students studying towards a Higher National Diploma in Music. 

SRC HND Music students who put on a music recital at Stormont buildings alongside SRC Lecturer Paddy Craig and Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry
SRC HND Music students who put on a music recital at Stormont buildings alongside SRC Lecturer Paddy Craig and Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry

Robin Swann, MLA and Chair of the Employment and Learning Committee said: “On behalf of the Committee I would like to take this opportunity to thank the students and staff from our local colleges for attending today’s event and for showcasing the range, the breadth and superior level of Further Education (FE) courses available. 

“The Committee is very supportive of the Department for Employment and Learning’s ‘Widening Participation Strategy’ and as such we are keen to promote the opportunities available through Further Education Colleges for those students wishing to continue towards Higher Education courses and qualifications. 

“It is crucial that we ensure that all prospective students are provided with a fair and equal path towards Higher Education. Sometimes, the most able people are the least likely to participate in education and we must do all we can to encourage, promote and support their access to and involvement in Higher Education. Today’s event is an important step in highlighting the opportunities that exist in Further Education and my Committee was delighted to be involved. We look forward to working with the FE sector to promote and support future initiatives geared towards increasing participation.   

Colleges Northern Ireland, the representative body for the six regional FE colleges organised the event.  Gerry Campbell, their Chief Executive said “The FE sector offers an alternative route to obtaining a third level education.  The sector supports over 11,000 Higher Education students annually and offers them the opportunity to progress on an undergraduate degree – in most cases this means potential progression on to the second year of such a course. In terms of success – our statistics are impressive - 37% of our higher education students are from the most deprived areas in NI and despite this we rate of 95% for retention and 91% for achievement”.

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