Free Course for Managers to Develop Their Skills

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30 November 2023

Neil Symington

A man who has attained a postgraduate qualification whilst continuing to work in a senior position in Newcastle, County Down, is urging others to take up opportunities for professional development which are currently available free of charge in the local council area.    

Neil Symington, who is the Director of Services at Cancer Fund for Children, an all-island charity, achieved the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Level 7 Award in Strategic Management through South Eastern Regional College (SERC), supported by Newry Mourne and Down District Council’s (NMDDC’s) Upskilling for Growth programme.  

Now the Council is offering the CMI Level 7 Award again in early 2024. The course will give managers the chance to develop professionally and to increase their confidence and skills as they work towards the qualification.   

Neil says he was keen to hone his skills at work and, on joining the course, immediately knew he had come to the right place:  “From my initial enquiry, to sign up and programme commencement, I was supported and encouraged throughout and found this onboarding process, logistical arrangements, and IT support to be exceptional.  The course was managed and delivered expertly, with constant support and coaching in the completion of the assessments.”   

Neil was very experienced in working in the third sector and in the community at a senior level, but when he became Director of Services, his role expanded to lead on the strategic development and delivery of services across the island of Ireland for children and young people affected by cancer.   

He says:   “As a relatively new director in the charity I work in, I was seeking out training for senior leaders.  I wanted to develop my ability to think and act more strategically, to help improve my ability to lead with vision, with broader awareness, skills and insights.     

“The CMI level 7 through SERC provided the ideal opportunity to meet a vast and diverse range of other senior leaders who were also on the course; we all learned from each other, along with training input from leaders across all sectors.      “It has enhanced my knowledge and ability in strategic leadership, developing organisational strategy, strategic risk management, and strategic approaches to mental health and wellbeing.”   

The new course runs from January 2024 and is available free of charge to those living or working in the NMDDC area. You can find out more by emailing: