Further and higher education colleges across Northern Ireland are urging local businesses to avail of the wealth of resources and new approaches to accredited training and upskilling opportunities quickly adapted by the colleges to meet current circumstances. The online provision, mentoring and bespoke offerings will be essential to meeting the needs of the business community, learners in employment and those returning to employment in the drive to revive the economy.
The six colleges of further and higher education – South Eastern Regional College, South West College, Southern Regional College, North West Regional College, Northern Regional College and Belfast Metropolitan College – continue to offer a range of facilitated programmes designed to upskill individuals and work teams in a range of industry sectors including business, leadership and management, construction, healthcare and hospitality along with digital transformation skills. The colleges have helped many small businesses move to an online presence so they can continue their business remotely during lockdown. Colleges can also create bespoke courses to meet the needs of individual businesses and work with individuals to upskill.
Neil McCauley, turned his career experience into Professional Recognition achieving the equivalent to a vocational masters with a Level 7 City & Guilds Professional Recognition Engineering Management through support from a college of further education.
Neil worked in various roles early in his career including in a bank, in construction and ended up securing a post with Almac which propelled him into the high- tech industry of chemical processing. His role there led to supervising and management of staff. He worked there for 7 years before progressing to McQuillan Environmental, a Northern Ireland based family run business which incorporates a diverse range of activities including civil engineering, demolition, quarrying, hazardous and non-hazardous waste management, outdoor cleaning services and analytical chemistry.
He said, “I have learnt many things about the industry and picked up skills and experience over the years which has allowed me to progress in my career to Technical Manager. Essentially, I took a different route by learning and progressing on the job. I became aware of turning my skills and experience into a professional recognised qualification and achieved City & Guilds Level 7 Professional Recognition qualification which recognises the knowledge, experience, and strategic role I have accumulated working in the industry.
He added, “I would encourage anyone working in industry, who maybe didn’t take the traditional degree route, but who have been working their way up their company to gather the evidence they need to achieve professional recognition with support from their local college.”
Skills Focus programmes, which are fully funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE) and usually delivered in the workplace or college facilities, have been adapted for online delivery. This means that employees who are currently working remotely can join programmes, available now, to upskill whilst they are furloughed or continue to work from home.
Applications are also open (until 29 May 2020) for £5k worth of Invest NI Innovation Vouchers which will allow businesses or potential entrepreneurs to work with a public sector knowledge provider, such as your local college, on an innovation project. Applications are particularly welcome for projects that might help alleviate issues that businesses are facing because of COVID-19.
In addition, the InnovateUs programme, which is offered across Northern Ireland through the six further and higher education colleges, is a fully funded skills development programme from DfE which provides small business with less than 50 employees with the capacity to innovate across a range of business development activities, providing up to 60 hours of fully funded mentoring in a number of key areas including engineering, product design and development and digital transformation.
Contact your local college of further and higher education for details.