Prize-winning Northern Regional College students ‘career ready’


Eight Northern Regional College Engineering and Computing students were honoured with awards at the 2019 Career Ready Student Graduations. The students were among over 100 young people from all over Northern Ireland who attended the Career Ready Graduation Ceremony in Belfast. The ceremony marks a major milestone in their Career Ready journey, which prepares them for the world of work by linking them with local employers. This year, through the Career Ready Programme, some of the College’s Engineering and Computing students at the Ballymena and Magherafelt campuses secured valuable paid industrial experience, thanks to the College’s links with 40 different companies.

Rafal Filla and Caolain Anderson, who study engineering at the Ballymena and Magherafelt campuses respectively, took home Work Placement Student of the Year Awards, while their colleagues Jude Moore, a student in Ballymena, and Jonathan Cahoon, who studies at Magherafelt, scooped the Student Ambassador of the Year Awards.

The College’s computing students also took home prizes. From the Ballymena campus Duncan Clarke won Work Placement Student of the Year and Jodie McClenaghan won Student Ambassador of the Year. Meanwhile, two of their colleagues at the Magherafelt campus, Robin Satran and Adam Montgomery, won Work Placement of the Year and Student Ambassador of the Year, respectively.

Northern Regional College is one of the largest Career Ready providers in Northern Ireland, currently offering the programme to its Level 3 Engineering and Computing students in Ballymena and Magherafelt. Last year it was announced that the College would be extending the programme to include Business students at the Coleraine and Magherafelt campuses.

As part of the two-year Career Ready programme, students receive a fully-paid internship during the summer holidays. In addition, they benefit from one-to-one mentoring and skills development opportunities with their employer, giving them a solid platform for career success. During their internship, they have an opportunity to apply what they are taught in College to the workplace, making learning both relevant and interesting.  

There are also benefits for the participating employers as it helps them identify potential employees and see their business through the eyes of a young person. Many previous students who have impressed during their internship have been offered either full-time or part-time employment on their successful completion of the programme, while others have received financial support to continue their studies, either at an FE College or university. 

Bill Watson and Gemma Goodrich are Career Ready co-ordinators at Northern Regional College for Engineering and IT respectively.

Congratulating the Class of 2019 Career Ready graduates, Bill said: “As always, we have been so impressed by our students’ commitment and work ethic, but we are also very grateful to the employers who have worked closely with us to make Career Ready such a real success story for the College.

“There is clear evidence to show that students who successfully complete the Career Ready programme have an added edge when it comes to applying for jobs, so the employers’ support is very important.” 

Jim Nelson, Assistant Head of the Computing Department, agreed that Career Ready improves students’ employability.

He said: “I can really see a difference in the students at the end of the program in their interpersonal skills, demeanour, maturity and awareness of responsibilities and duties that will help them in their future education and career path.”

One of the College’s participating companies was also honoured with an award. Stephen McCullough, formerly Caterpillar NI Plant Manager, was winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award. This award goes to the employer who consistently goes beyond the call of duty to support the Career Ready programme in Northern Ireland. 

Bill Watson said the Volunteer of the Year accolade was very well deserved:

“Stephen has been an ardent supporter of the Career Programme from its inception in 2012 and this award justly acknowledges his valuable contribution.

“Over the years, many of our students have benefited enormously from Stephen’s industrial insight, expertise and encouragement and we hope this relationship will continue to grow.  

Stephen initially got involved with the programme when he was with Caterpillar Inc., participating both as a student mentor and Local Advisory Board member for the Engineering Career Ready programme.

He has maintained his interest and links with both the College and the Career Ready programme by facilitating site visits, paid internships, work experience and employment for Level 3 Engineering students.