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FE for Me campaign launch broadcasts live from e3

F Eformemain

Published: 2 June 2021

The College was delighted to host the launch of the FE for Me campaign yesterday, with a live broadcast from our Belfast Film and Television studios. The launch broadcasted a thought-provoking panel discussion online, hosted by Louise Warde Hunter, all live from the recording studio at the Belfast Film and Television School. The event had an amazing professional studio set up with Creative and Digital staff and Creative Media Production students working behind the scenes, and lecturer Lynda Bryans as the excellent MC.

The panel included Brian Doran, Chief Executive and Principal at SRC, Mary Meehan, Deputy CEO Manufacturing NI, John Harkin, Founder and CEO of Alchemy Technology Services and student Shauna Daly from SWC who discussed the vital role of FE education for both learners and the wider economy. Following Louise Warde Hunter’s welcome there was a 3-minute video from the Permanent Secretary before the discussions began.

The FE for Me campaign will enable the six FE Colleges to develop as a sector and to demonstrate how FE learners are supported to get onto the right pathway to achieving their career goals, and to gain skills that employers and the wider economy will need in the future.

DfE’s new Skills for a 10X Economy was welcomed by Louise Warde Hunter in her opening talk as it will enable FE colleges to support more people to improve their job prospects and fulfil their economic potential.

Louise Warde Hunter outlined how the campaign aims to raise the profile of the FE sector, so that professional and technical education and training become an equally valued choice to the traditional academic route and that is should no longer be a plan B for those who wanted to go to university. She added that Further Education offers people the opportunity for lifelong learning – the richness and diversity of courses provide social mobility and economic growth.

Mary Meehan spoke very highly of the amazing studio set up for the live broadcast at e3 and talked about the importance of the talent pipeline that FE colleges provide in the manufacturing industry. She also emphasised the importance of digital skills so that staff can work in different roles within organisations and outlined how there is big digital skills gap to be filled.

FE Colleges would like to be a first choice in education for more learners and Brian Doran confirmed that although the FE sector in N Ireland provides high quality training that is a collaboration between business and academia, there is still much work to do in recruiting students at Level 4. He welcomed the announcement of the new traineeships that will help school leavers acquire new professional skills which will address skills gaps in IT, Health and Social Care, Applied Science, Construction, Engineering and Business and Finance.

Brian also made the point that there is a need for the value of FE training to be embedded in wider society, and that there is room for improvement on careers advice available in schools for young people so that they are aware of all pathways and FE course options open to them.

This was endorsed by nursing trainee Shauna Daly who completed her Health and Social Care course at SWC this year and will start her degree in nursing at QUB in September. Shauna only found out about her FE course after researching options herself, and said she felt that as a grammar school pupil the FE route was not encouraged. She was glad she chose the course as she particularly enjoyed the project and work-based learning structure of her learning.

John Harkin, a North West Regional College alumni, whose company now works in partnership with the College, spoke about the rising need for staff with digital skills in the future, and that many talented FE graduates are being recruited because of the technical skills and experience gained on FE courses. He also added that many companies no longer recruit University graduates and that skills and talent are more important. John also talked about how FE learners should ‘visualise a future on the global stage’ as there are opportunities there to have successful global careers in high quality tech positions with excellent prospects and salaries.

There was also an opportunity for those invited to the online launch to submit questions to the panel which were answered live by panel members. You can follow and share the ongoing FE for Me campaign on Twitter: @Further_NI and on Instagram: @furthereducationni

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