SERC Trainees Recognised at Stormont

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01 December 2023

Trainees and SERC senior staff with representatives of the Department for the Economy in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont

Students from South Eastern Regional College (SERC) were among thirty young people from Northern Ireland’s Further Education Colleges recognised as the first recipients of a Northern Ireland Traineeship, at a ceremony in Stormont on Wednesday (29 November). The event was supported by the Department for the Economy and sponsored by Dr. Caoimhe Archibald MLA.

Click here to view event pictures. 

The students were recognised for exceptional progress, personal achievement, and their commitment to completing the Traineeship.

Receiving the NI Traineeship awards from SERC were:  Aston Doyle (Dundonald), Ben Marshall (Holywood) and Aaron Tully (Newtownards) who studied Plumbing; Sarah Freedman (Bangor) who studied Animal Care; Nikki May (Lisburn) who studied Animal Care; and Jordan Cunningham (Ballynahinch) who studied Motor Vehicle Maintenance. 

The new NI Traineeships enable school-leavers and adults to gain qualifications equivalent to five GCSEs (Level 2), while undertaking valuable work experience in the sector they are interested in. 

The NI Traineeship programme opened in 2021 to offer a new, accessible route to further study and employment, including Higher Education and apprenticeships. The Traineeships are available across 27 professions and are funded by the Department for the Economy, in line with its 10X Economic Vision and associated Skills Strategy. Some 2,400 people are now studying on a traineeship programme through local FE colleges. 

SERC student Aston Doyle, who has now progressed to an apprenticeship in plumbing after completing his traineeship in the trade, told the audience at Stormont:

“I wasn’t too sure if traineeships would be for me because they were new, but now I would say to anyone thinking about doing one, just do it. I had great training and teaching, have met lots of new people, and I’m really enjoying my plumbing work now and know I’ll be able to make a great career in it.” 

SERC Principal and CEO Ken Webb, who chairs the FE Colleges’ Training Implementation Group, welcomed the students and their guests to the awards ceremony.

He said: “NI Traineeships were created to offer students a more dynamic and relevant vocational programme of learning. We know purely academic routes of education aren’t for everyone and there is more than one pathway to success. Our award recipients tonight perfectly illustrate this fact, and we are incredibly proud of the work and commitment they have shown in completing their Traineeships so successfully. I’d also like to acknowledge the support of all our employers who participate in the programme and who, along with our talented FE colleagues, ensure NI Traineeships provide participants with the skills employers really need.”   

To embark upon an NI Traineeship, applicants must hold a minimum of a Level One qualification, defined as four GCSEs at grades D to G, including Maths and English grades D to E, or equivalent. Career pathways available at SERC are animal care, bricklaying, carpentry, electrical, engineering, hairdressing, hospitality, IT, land-based technologies, plastering, plumbing, retail, travel and tourism and vehicle maintenance (both light and heavy).    

Trainees explore real-world challenges developed by local employers and complete a period of structured work-related learning with an employer. Students also have the opportunity to achieve additional qualifications deemed necessary for work within their chosen sector, as well as skills valued by employers including problem-solving, teamwork and time management.  

Trainees may be eligible for financial support through Education Maintenance Allowance or FE grants. Hardship funds, free school meals, equipment, and travel passes may also be available. 

Applications for Traineeships at SERC for September 2024 entry will open early next year.