NW needs to become a ‘first choice’ destination for our learners

Leo Murphy.
Leo Murphy.

In this article, North West Regional College head LEO MURPHY says the region needs to hold on to its young people to effectively grow the economy

For the region’s economy to grow and develop, it is vital that learners are encouraged to stay local and study Higher Education courses available on their doorstep.

The North West Regional College campus in Derry.

The North West Regional College campus in Derry.

North West Regional College (NWRC) has positioned itself as a key driver in the development of the local economy with a clear focus to develop the skills base in the city region.

NWRC is playing a critical role in supporting the local economy through its Higher Education Curriculum.We do this not only as a local employer but by ensuring the North West is a first choice destination for learners.

The College currently provides a number of Higher Education courses in the form of Foundation Degrees, Higher National Certificates, Higher National Diplomas, Higher Level Apprenticeships, and Honours Degrees, that have a proven record of taking the student directly from the classroom into employment.

We are rightly proud of the success of our students. Earlier this year, Declan Doherty, who graduated from us with a HND in Civil Engineering, was appointed Project Manager for the construction of the new North Wing redevelopment at Altnagelvin Hospital. 

Leo Murphy, North West Regional College.

Leo Murphy, North West Regional College.

Declan has often said that his time at the College was pivotal to the success he has achieved to date.

On the other side of the world, Sinead Deeney, who graduated from NWRC with a HND in Building Studies, is now Chair of Women in Engineering and Vice President of Young Engineers, Australia.

These are just a few examples of students who consciously decided on our College because it gave them a direct route into the career path they wanted.

Our Higher Education courses are career and jobs focussed, directly relating to the requirements of industry.

Open Day at NWRC's Strand Road campus.

Open Day at NWRC's Strand Road campus.

The Higher Education conversation in the city region must also be about the 700 plus full-time Higher Education students at the North West Regional College.

Many of our courses are tailored directly to meet the skills shortage and delivered in consultation with industry.

Our focus is on developing the skills base in the local region and, in doing so. the potential for our young people and adults.

We work closely with all local secondary and grammar schools to develop curriculum choices and vocational opportunities and we need their pupils to see NWRC as one of their valid Higher Education pathways.

We have also developed regional partnerships with a range of other third level providers, particularly Ulster University, Queen’S University, Belfast, and Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

Indeed, many of the Higher Level options we offer involve a top-up year or final year of study at honours level with these partners. This is evidence of our strategy to facilitate the retention of higher level learning within the city region.

It’s important that we do as much as possible to encourage our young people to study locally and keep the talent here in the North West so that we can build and grow our economy.

We are exporting too much of our talent.

At North West Regional College, we are committed to continue to provide high quality and relevant higher education courses.

Across all of our campuses, students can study both practical and academic work in industry standard facilities including our state of the art Media and Creative Arts studios, Performance Theatres, Science & Technology labs, Engineering Suites and Professional Kitchens.

The cost of tuition at NWRC is much lower with the average cost of a Foundation Degree being £2,500 per year.

We also have Bursary and Maintenance financial options which are available to students from a disadvantaged background.

The college was recently awarded almost €1m of Erasmus+ funding which will be used to send staff and students from the college to a number of European countries over the next two years where they will undertake study or complete traineeships across all areas of the curriculum.

The College also has established learning partnerships in India and South East Asia.

As well as the cultural experience and the opportunity to develop language skills, students can also develop their personal competencies and employability skills.

Our commitment and support to the local economy is also evidenced by our Business Support Centre, a one-stop shop for all emerging local entrepreneurs and SMEs to avail of training and mentoring solutions which can enable them to achieve their business ambitions.

Our team has supported over 200 local companies in areas such as product development, innovation, and business planning.

The North West is a region that continues to grow both economically and culturally.

But, for it to be sustainable, we believe it is crucial that we all work together to provide higher level learning and career opportunities here within the region.

We are fully committed to driving this forward by providing first class Higher Education opportunities for all.

Strong city regions of similar size to Derry on this island, such as Galway, Cork and Limerick, all have vibrant universities and regional institutes of technology.

This provides the best of university and professional and technical education for the development of their cities.

This, coupled with good infrastructure investment, is absolutely critical for economic development.

It is important that, within the discussion around university expansion at Magee (totally supported by NWRC), we don’t lose sight of the importance of our 2 year Foundation Degrees, Higher National Diplomas and Higher Level Apprenticeships to help build our economy.

For more information on Higher Education Courses at NWRC, log on to www.nwrc.ac.uk/HE