£6.9m funding announced at South West College

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EMPLOYMENT and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, announced a £6.9 million Employer Support Programme for further education colleges at a celebration event for South West College in Dungannon.

The Tyrone and Fermanagh college scored a hat-trick of honours at the Association of Colleges’ annual Beacon Awards including the coveted President’s Award which recognises the most innovative education achievement from a UK college.

the college’s dedicated STEM teaching centre in Dungannon and Cookstown-based industry support unit, the InnoTech Centre, also clinched major honours at the event.

Speaking at the event in South West College’s STEM centre, Dr Farry said: “Today, I can confirm that I have secured and approved funding of £6.9 million for a further four years to continue the Employer Support Programme.

“As a result of this additional funding, the further education sector will be able to continue to provide a wide range of support for local employers, through sector-wide initiatives and projects, to encourage businesses to engage with, and embrace innovation and sustainability.

“Further education colleges will continue to play a pivotal role in supporting employers as key drivers of local and regional economic and workforce development.”

Congratulating the college on their accolade, the Minister concluded: “Indeed, the Department’s Innovation Fund: Employer Support Pilot Programme provided the financial support for South West College’s InnoTech and STEM Centres, and the sector’s Carbon Zero NI project. The Beacon awards recognise these as exemplars of best practice in further education.

“This recognition is testament to the innovative work of South West College and its staff across a spectrum of services, ranging from effective engagement with employers, to its work with schools right across Northern Ireland in the promotion of STEM.

“To win these awards, the college has faced stiff competition from right across the UK, and, in the case of the gold International ‘Green Award’, from around the entire world.”

Mr Malachy McAleer, Director of SWC, said: “The STEM Centre and InnoTech Centre are two landmarks for industry-focused education in Northern Ireland. We are proud that our work has been benchmarked against the very best colleges in the UK. These honours belong to all our staff who have achieved exceptional standards.”

Lord Willis of Knaresborough, President of the Association of Colleges Beacon Awards Charitable Trust said: “The South West College STEM Centre project encapsulates all that is good about a Further Education college seizing the moment and recognising the huge employment and career opportunities there are in STEM-related industries.”

The additional funding of over £6.9 million is being made available to the further education sector, over the next 4 years, through the mainstream Employer Support Programme, commencing in this financial year (2011/12).

This funding stream will ensure the further education sector has the capacity and expertise to deliver the skilled workforce required for the future in collaboration with the business sector. The fund will also increase the role the further education sector has in supporting economic development and developing entrepreneurship.