Two Northern Regional students who impressed during a summer internship have both landed part-time jobs with their respective employers.
Both are both studying IT at the College’s Ballymena campus.
Joshua Jackson (19) from Ballymoney is now a Foundation degree student, having successfully completed a Level 3 Diploma in IT; and Amy Chan (18) is in the second year of a Level 3 Diploma IT.
Joshua did his placement with McAuley Engineering in Ballymoney while Amy completed her placement with Portglenone company Plotbox, which recently relocated to the Ecos Centre in Ballymena.
Joshua and Amy secured their internships through the Career Ready Programme, an initiative delivered by the College in partnership with local employers. Designed to prepare young people for the world of work, it includes paid summer placements and one-to-one business mentoring to improve their employability when they leave college.
Students have to complete a rigourous competitive selection process to get accepted on the Career Ready programme. When they enrol on the Career Ready IT programme, they are given practice interviews and support to develop their curriculum vitae. A preliminary screening is completed by College lecturers and those selected to go forward are interviewed by potential employers. Once they get over this hurdle, successful students are assigned a mentor from the company to reinforce classroom learning and help them settle into the workplace.
Joshua, who is a past pupil of Ballymoney High School, completed his internship in August 2016 and has been working with the company ever since on a part-time basis.
“McAuley Engineering was my first choice. It’s the biggest employer in the town so I was delighted to be offered a placement there. My mentor, Noel Doyle, who is Business Systems Manager with the company was brilliant. Even before I started the internship, I had regular meetings with Noel. This gave me a good understanding of the company and what my role was going to be. I’d an opportunity to work with different types of software and coding and as time went on, I was given more and more responsibility which really helped my confidence.”
As well securing part-time employment with McAuley Engineering, Joshua was encouraged to continue with his studies and the company is now sponsoring him to do a Foundation Degree in IT at the College.
Award winning County Antrim company, Plotbox created a modern solution to the age old problem of mapping cemeteries by using drones to create more accurate maps and bespoke software to collate the new information and migrate data from existing systems.
The company’s innovative and creative use of new technology has allowed the company to expand rapidly, both nationally and internationally. It now operates throughout Ireland and the UK and has customers in India and Dubai. Plotbox also has offices in both Boston and San Franciso to service clients on the east and west coasts of the US.
Having completed her six week paid internship with Plotbox, Amy was invited to stay on two days a week and she is able to fit this around her classes at College.
Stephen Hardy, Chief Technical Officer at Plotbox said Amy was an ideal example of how the Career Ready programme can be a ‘win win’ for students and companies like Plotbox.
“The company has grown quickly and we are continually adding new features to improve the software. Amy is very capable and helps with collating the databases and testing new software. She is competent and confident in her own ability and not afraid to ask questions or challenge something she thinks isn’t the way it should be, which is good for all us!”
Gemma Goodrich, Northern Regional College Career Ready IT Programme Manager, says the programme gives students the necessary skills and support they need to get on a good career path.
“Most of our lecturers have industry experience but we still liaise very closely with local employers to make sure that we are teaching is both relevant and applicable to the workplace.
“The paid internship is a great opportunity for students to put theory into context. They also get a better appreciation of the pace and timescale involved in the lifecycle of software and the ‘end to end’ development of a product from an idea, analysis, design, implementation, testing and ongoing maintenance. This helps their IT skills but also allows them to develop their ‘softer’ skills like communication, time management and working with others, which are equally important to help advance their career.
“When students return to College after their internship, we can see how they have grown in confidence and this in turn helps their employability. More than 80 per cent of employers who support the programme said they would hire a Career Ready student.”
Over seventy employers across Northern Ireland are currently supporting the Career Ready programme. Tony Madden, Career Ready Regional Manager for Northern Ireland says the programme has produced a wide range of talented young people, many of them have continued to keep in contact and work with the employers who supported them through their Career Ready programme.
“A number of employers have provided the student the opportunity to “earn while they learn”, by offering them an alternative to university where the employer will pay or make a contribution towards the students studying a part time Foundation Degree or Higher Level Apprenticeship at their local College of Further and Higher Education College.”
The Northern Regional College has the largest number of Career Ready students in Engineering and IT of any school or college across Northern Ireland. Last year, a total of 43 students at the College were matched with local companies.