South Eastern Regional College has been effective in ensuring apprentices’ skills and knowledge meet the needs of employers, including at higher levels.
South Eastern Regional College (SERC) is a leading provider of apprenticeships in Northern Ireland. The college operates on four main campuses throughout the Southeast of Northern Ireland and has 950 expert and professional staff. The college has 800 apprentices, who are mainly 16–24 years old. The majority are school-leavers who are following level two and level three apprenticeships. However, the college also runs higher level apprenticeships on which students can study up to foundation degree level.
QUALIFICATIONS THAT MEET INDUSTRY REQUIREMENTS
All of SERC’s apprenticeships are funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE), which is part of the Northern Ireland Regional Government. The college offers 22 different apprenticeship areas, the most popular being mechanical engineering, motor vehicle, plumbing, electrical, joinery and refrigeration. While these traditional trades are popular, SERC has recently introduced apprenticeships in pharmacy, computing, childcare and accounting. Apprenticeships provide an alternative means of learning rather than staying on in full-time education. Apprentices continue to study while at the same time working for an employer and getting paid.
SERC’s apprentices spend one day per week in college and the rest in the workplace. If an apprentice makes good progress, they can usually complete their apprenticeship within two years.
SUCCESS IN SKILLS COMPETITIONS
SERC’s apprentices are encouraged to take part in skills competitions which develop their skills confidence. In last year’s WorldSkills Show in Birmingham, SERC apprentices won three gold medals and one silver medal in refrigeration, brickwork, carpentry and joinery.
One of SERC’s catering apprentices, Rachel Carson, works for a restaurant headed by celebrity chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli. She was named Apprentice of The Year 2018 at the Institute of Hospitality Awards for Professionalism and was also a finalist at the European Alliance for Apprenticeships Awards in Vienna in November 2018. Jean-Christophe Novelli said, “Rachel is an incredibly talented young chef and her quick-fire success is testament to her dedication and passion for the industry as well as the high standard of training she is receiving at college.”
HIGHER LEVEL APPRENTICESHIPS
Higher level apprenticeships have been an exciting addition to SERC’s courses. SERC has almost 200 higher level apprenticeships in nine areas, including childcare, mechatronics, automotive management and accounting. Higher level apprenticeships provide an opportunity to study higher diplomas and foundation degrees while working. A foundation degree is the equivalent of the first year of a degree course.
This is an exciting time for apprenticeships in Northern Ireland. DfE is working with employers and training providers to revise the content of existing apprenticeships and develop new ones. This will ensure that employers are provided with the skilled employees they need, which will guarantee growth in the Northern Ireland economy.