NRC students and staff honoured at first-ever Further Education NI Excellence Awards

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Eight Northern Regional College students and two staff members have been honoured at the first-ever Further Education NI Excellence Awards.The inaugural awards ceremony was held at the Armagh City Hotel on Tuesday 4th June, with awards categories reflecting the wide spectrum of learning levels and pathways available across Northern Ireland’s Further Education Colleges, from introductory and supported learning to apprenticeships, higher education and lifelong learning.

The ceremony was opened by the Economy Minister Conor Murphy who said: “I was delighted to attend these awards to celebrate the achievements of excellence by both students and staff across the further education sector.

“My economic vision has skills at its core and further education colleges have a significant role to play in delivering a regionally balanced economy with good jobs, higher productivity and which is reducing its carbon output.

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“I commend our colleges, our students, our staff, and all who support you, for all that you do, and will continue to do, to support the north’s economy.

Northern Regional College staff and students celebrating the FE excellence AwardsNorthern Regional College staff and students celebrating the FE excellence Awards
Northern Regional College staff and students celebrating the FE excellence Awards

“I want to see and hear more of this excellence and for further education colleges to continue to collaborate, to lead, and to take their rightful place in the story of our improving economic outlook.”

Guests at the event heard how student award recipients have improved their life and job-related skills thanks to the incredible effort they have made during their studies and of the positive impact made on people’s lives by the winning staff members.

Speaking at the event, Mel Higgins, Principal & Chief Executive of Northern Regional College, said: “It has been a privilege to see our students and staff from the College take to the stage tonight to receive their awards. Further Education offers everyone the chance to fulfil their true potential and I am delighted to see our students and staff, who epitomise the spirit and values of the College recognised here tonight. They are a shining example of what can be achieved with hard work, dedication, determination and the right support, and we look forward to seeing them progress on their chosen pathways.”

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NRC FE Excellence Award winners on the night included Ezra Carlisle from Ballymena who received an Introductory Programme Award. Top of the class in the Progression to Employment course, Ezra was recognised for her hard work in progressing through three years of inclusive learning and gaining employability and personal development qualifications along the way.

Northern Regional College staff and students celebrating the FE excellence AwardsNorthern Regional College staff and students celebrating the FE excellence Awards
Northern Regional College staff and students celebrating the FE excellence Awards

Naomi Wells from Carrickfergus was the recipient of the FE Excellence Award for Supported Learning. Studying Retail and Enterprise in the Step Up DARE programme, Naomi worked tirelessly to gain qualifications and plans to continue her studies at the College having applied for Level 3 in ICT.

The NRC FE Excellence Award for a Level 2 Programme went to Casey McMaster from Ballymoney. Casey, who has been a student on the level two Childcare traineeship, was praised for her performance in her course work, work placement and project-based learning.

The FE Excellence Award for a School Partnership Programme went to NRC’s Lola Campbell from Ballymena. Lola, who is studying a Level 3 BTEC in Construction and the Built Environment, is from Cambridge House Grammar School in Ballymena and attends the college for three sessions a week.

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The NRC FE Excellence Award for Level 3 Further Education winner was level three Applied Science student Erin Maybin from Ballymena. The College’s top-performing science student, Erin has also helped promote the next generation of females in STEM professions at College events.

The FE Excellence Award for Higher Education went to Hannah Currie from Randalstown. Studying a Higher Level Apprenticeship in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at NRC’s Ballymena campus, Hannah recently won Gold in the Industrial Robotics Category at the Worldskills UK National Finals.

The Lifelong Learning award went to Danny McGinley, a Translink Rail Engineering Operative from Derry/Londonderry. Danny left his full-time employment as a bus driver to pursue a new career as a track apprentice at Northern Regional College.

The final NRC student recipient on the evening was Conor Dallas, a level three Carpentry and Joinery apprentice from Ballymena. Conor has won several awards already since beginning his woodworking career at the College three years ago, including being named Young Apprentice of the Year last year.

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The evening also honoured staff members from the Further Education sector, recognising the positive contribution they have made to the College and their community over the years.

Two NRC staff members were recognised on the night. Student Finance Co-Ordinator, Lisa Burns, from the Newtownabbey campus has spent over 23 years at NRC. She was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award alongside Gordon Kane, a Curriculum Area Manager for Engineering within the College.

Commenting on why Further Education is so important to Northern Ireland, Gordon said: “FE is special because it is a critical part in our development of young people in supporting industry and creating opportunities for young people.”

Lisa Burns added: “Further Education is a great opportunity for people to upskill, retrain, or enjoy education as an alternative to school. It gives people a chance to develop their independence, to progress, and to achieve in a completely fantastic environment.”