Minister Addresses South West College Strategy Day

Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry this week addressed a special South West College event that examined how innovative skills and training provision can stimulate jobs and growth in Fermanagh and Tyrone.

Speaking in Enniskillen, the Minister outlined his vision of a further education (FE) sector featuring colleges will be recognised locally, regionally and internationally for high quality and economically relevant education and training provision.

“They will be focused on achieving excellence in delivering the skills needed for the economy of today and tomorrow. Finally, they will be ambitious for their learners, for their region, and for the contribution they make to improving the competitiveness of the Northern Ireland economy.”

Mr Farry said that approach puts a strong focus on higher level skills, particularly in STEM areas, that he said are needed to re-balance and re-build the economy.

“In this regard, it is worth mentioning that our colleges are the sole deliverers of sub-degree provision at levels 4 and 5 in Northern Ireland, and that around 18% of all higher education enrolments are in our colleges.”

Monday’s strategy day outlined ambitious plans to develop a new state-of-the-art education facility on the site of the former Erne Hospital and capitalise on the potential of SWC’s new CREST Centre, a £1.5million green technology and training facility that opened in February 2015. The college also said it would seek to expand the range of higher education programmes delivered across its campuses and foster more dynamic links within its network of indigenous and international partners.

In the last year, the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) awarded SWC grade one status for learning excellence, placing it among top four colleges in the UK.

Minister Farry continued, “The further education sector also plays an increasingly significant role in attracting inward investment projects.

They deliver the innovative Assured Skills programme, which is a joint initiative between my Department and Invest Northern Ireland, and which assures companies setting up here that the skills they need to be successful are available to them. Since 2010/11, there have been 19 Assured Skills projects supporting the creation of 4,575 jobs, with a commitment of £6.84 million from my Department. These projects will add £118 million per year to the Northern Ireland economy when all of the jobs are created.”

Also speaking at the event, director at the college, Malachy McAleer said there was a clear correlation between the ability of colleges to produce high calibre and high skilled talent and the ability of local industry to compete and thrive.

“In tough times, South West College has shown its worth, working effectively and innovatively with industry to build resilience, fostering world-leading expertise and supporting efforts to enhance the attractiveness of the South West Region for inward investors,” he said.

“We take pride in our ambition and continue to pursue new levels of excellence in our teaching, resourcing and facilities. Our calculated investments have paid off generously for the local economy, improving employability, competitiveness and providing confidence to potential investors.

We are braced for a challenging period ahead and are acutely aware of the current financial demands, but we are also committed to delivering the best possible outcomes and will be setting our targets high for the year ahead.”

South West College’s suite of degree and foundation degree courses are developed in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University and delivered across campuses in Dungannon, Enniskillen, Omagh and Cookstown.

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