Never too late for career change


Liam McCarthy, who has just completed the first year of his four-year Electrical Installation programme at Northern Regional College in Ballymena, is proof that it is never too late for a career change. Liam is in his late thirties, married with a young daughter and has degree in Business Management from the Open University. Originally from Durham, by the time he moved to Northern Ireland to live in his wife’s hometown of Randalstown, he had travelled the world and was ready to settle down.

Work was hard to come by so when his father-in-law, a local electrical contractor, offered him work with Cotton Electrical Controls Ltd, Liam jumped at the opportunity. In September 2019, having worked with the family business for two years, he decided train as an electrician as an ‘adult returner’ to education.

Liam takes up the story: “I really enjoy my work and it’s very different from anything I’ve done before. Although I have good business knowledge and experience, I felt I needed to improve my practical skills and specialist knowledge for this line of work. I researched what was available and decided that the Electrotechnical programme at Northern Regional College’s Farm Lodge campus was my best option.” 

As a part time student, Liam works four days a week in the family business and - until the start of the lockdown at least - one day in college working towards becoming a qualified electrician. 

“The course has been very beneficial and although it is early days, I now have a much better understanding of the theory and Health and Safety regulations and other legislation which has really helped build my confidence.”

Like students everywhere, Liam has had to adapt to online learning as a result of the lockdown but although this presented challenges, he says every cloud has a silver lining:

“My daughter just thinks ‘daddy's home’ and wants to play. She doesn't understand that I need to study but, on the other hand, it’s nice to able to spend more time with my wife and daughter.”

Ian Thomson, Liam’s lecturer at the College, said that Liam was an exemplary student. His dedication and commitment were inspirational, and this had a positive influence on his class.

“Attending College as an adult returner can be challenging but Liam has fitted in really well. He has had a positive influence on the class and the other students are all benefiting from his mature and conscientious approach to his work,” said Ian.

Northern Regional College offers a range of work-based learning programmes across all six campuses covering vocational areas including: Barbering; Beauty Therapy; Brickwork; Carpentry & Joinery; Catering and Professional Chefs; Civil Engineering; Electrical Installation; Engineering; Food and Beverage Service; Hairdressing; Motor Vehicle; and Plumbing. HLAs include Accountancy, Computing, Construction and Engineering.