Schools just out for summer but already, some parents are looking ahead to the autumn and anxiously totting up the cost of sending their offspring to university. County Derry couple, Nuala and Stuart Boyle from Magherafelt have managed to sidestep that particular financial hurdle with the news that their eldest son Thomas, has secured a coveted place on the prestigious and highly competitive Kainos Apprentice Programme.

Thomas, who has just completed a BTEC Extended Diploma in IT, specialising in Software Development, at Northern Regional College’s Magherafelt campus, will join Kainos as a Junior Software Engineer. He’ll work with the company four days a week and the other day will be spent studying for a degree part-time at Ulster University. As a Kainos employee, Thomas will get a salary, all staff benefits and the company will also pay his university tuition fees – a package worth up to £100,000.

Not surprisingly, his parents are thrilled.

Nuala says: “Thomas worked really hard and deserved to do well so we are really pleased for him. Being selected as a Kainos apprentice gives him the best of both worlds. He’ll be earning a salary and getting valuable work experience with Kainos but he’ll not miss out on the student experience as he’ll also get an opportunity to study at university and graduate with a debt free degree in Computing Systems at the end of his apprenticeship.

Thomas admits that his future didn’t look quite as bright two years ago when his GCSE results came out.

“I was disappointed I didn’t get the results I was hoping for.  I could’ve gone back to school but if I did, I would have had to do A levels I knew I wouldn’t enjoy doing so really I’d just be going back for the sake of having A levels.

“I was interested in a career in Computing so started to look around at other options. The Level 3 Diploma in IT at NRC’s Magherafelt campus really appealed because it included a lot of interesting modules such as Object Oriented Programming and Database Design.”

Thomas continues: “When I started the course, I realised that students at NRC have a lot more freedom than what I was used to at school but, because I hadn’t got the GCSE results I wanted, I was determined not to cruise through the course and get by just doing the bare minimum. This was actually a lot easier than expected because the modules were so interesting and this motivated me to learn more and try even harder to see what I could achieve.

“The amount of work you put into the course is equal to the results you get out of it so I put all of my efforts into doing the best I could and found it much more enjoyable than anything I had done before in school.”

He adds that his positive experience at Northern Regional College was greatly influenced by his ‘amazing’ lecturers.

“Although the lecturers pushed and supported me to do my very best in all subjects, they also made learning fun.”

During his two years at Northern Regional College, Thomas and his classmates took part in a series of events and activities, some of which he says were a steep learning curve.

“We hosted an Hour of Code event to mark Computer Science Education Week and give local primary school pupils an introduction to Computer Science. I led a group of primary 6 and 7 children through a range of coding examples to expose them to the world of IT which was great fun.”

Thomas also notched up a number of significant awards while a student at Northern Regional College. Along with others in his class, he developed a mobile app, First Aid Fred, which won the software category at College’s NI BEST Awards and he was a member of the highest scoring boys’ team from Northern Ireland in CyberCenturian – a UK wide code breaking and cyber competition for young people. 

The decision to work hard and get involved in extracurricular activities clearly paid off for Thomas as he finished first year top of his class and completed the two year Diploma course with an overall Distinction, the equivalent of three As at A Level.

Now that he’s about to embark on an exciting new chapter of his life, Thomas says that going to Northern Regional College was one of his best decisions ever.

“Doing so well in my course and winning the competitions gave me the confidence to go for the Kainos ‘Earn As You Learn Scheme’. I was able to draw on all my experience at NRC for my application. Once I got through the initial selection phase, I was able to talk about everything I did at the College and was so delighted and proud to get a call from Kainos offering me a place on the scheme.”

His parents fully supported Thomas’s decision not to go back to school after his GCSEs as they felt the BTEC Diploma in IT would be an ideal stepping stone to his chosen career in Computing - although it helped that Thomas was sort of following in his dad’s footsteps. Stuart, who now works as a principal software developer, is also an alumni of the College. He went back to ‘school’ as a mature student and completed a HNC in Computing at the Ballymena campus before going on to do a degree in Computing at Ulster University, Coleraine. Ironically, Stuart’s first job as a developer was with Kainos.

Congratulating Thomas on securing the Kainos apprenticeship, Sean Gunning, Northern Regional College IT lecturer and course director of the BTEC Diploma in IT, says Thomas was an exemplary student who worked consistently hard throughout his two years.

“The Kainos ‘Earn As You Learn Scheme’ is very competitive and open to school leavers across Northern Ireland so we’re delighted that Thomas was selected. 

“The Level 3 Diploma was an ideal choice for someone like Thomas interested in a career in the Computing and IT sector as it gives students a nationally recognised qualification which meets the needs of employees and employers.

Sean adds that because students can chose to specialise in either Software Engineering or Creative Design in their second year, the career opportunities available to them are even wider.

Northern Regional College offers a wide range of further and higher education courses including Higher Level Apprentices in Accountancy, Computing and Engineering available at Northern Regional College.


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