FE Sector at the forefront of innovation leadership in Northern Ireland

On Tuesday senior leaders from across Northern Ireland’s Further Education sector and the Department for the Economy came together with key stakeholders from Invest NI, Innovate UK, and InterTrade Ireland, to strengthen the sectors focus on innovation development and growth.  This collaborative event was organised to support DfE’s Innovation Strategy that clearly sets out the key long term actions necessary to ensure that innovation plays its full part in realising the vision of Northern Ireland’s draft Industrial Strategy.

The event, hosted in our Dungannon Campus, focused on addressing key innovation policy decisions spearheaded by DfE, innovation growth to support SME’s and ingredients for innovation success in Northern Ireland.  One of the key outputs for this type of collaborative approach was to create a focused innovation network that can design, implement, and strategically manage innovation developments across the sector.

Interactive Workshop presenters at the SWC FE Innovation Event (from left) Dwayne Duncan, Dominic McGeown, Chris McQueen and Shirley Patterson.

Gerry Campbell, Chief Executive of Colleges Northern Ireland, the membership body for Northern Ireland’s six Further Education Colleges said: ‘We know that innovation is clearly linked to economic growth, competitiveness and productivity. The more innovation amongst our indigenous companies – the stronger the prospects for growth.’

Dr Jill Cush, Head of Business and Innovation South West College, said: ‘The FE sector as a whole recognises that innovation is a crucial driver of growth in the region’s economy and a collaborative approach is needed to boost Northern Ireland’s global outreach going forward.  On an annual basis Colleges provide hands-on innovation support to over 400 companies across Northern Ireland in areas including product design and prototyping. This leads directly to new job creation and business growth.’

Open Days 2017

Last months Open Day in Dungannon brought and end to the colleges 2017 Open Day Campaign, after a trio of successful events in Omagh, Enniskillen and Dungannon. With a total of 1,209 prospective students visiting the college across the campuses, South West College as ever put its best foot forward, and undoubtedly made a strong impression. The numbers were a 30% increase on those of Open Day 2016.



Construction 2020

South West College has once again shown itself to be a leader in sustainable construction with the development of the Passive Lab at its Technology & Skills Centre campus. The Passive Lab, the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland, was launched at the ‘Sustainable Construction 2020’ event.

Ciaran McManus, campus manager at the Technology & Skills centre is delighted with the progressive steps in the construction industry that South West College is taking. ‘As the construction industry emerges from a period of recession opportunities are beginning to appear, however it is apparent that these opportunities are increasingly being shaped by the drive for sustainable construction solutions which support the development of buildings which have greatly reduced energy demands. As the industry evolves South West College is well positioned to support this transition.

SWC Creative Mash-up

On Tuesday 28th March South West College Omagh Campus hosted its first ever ‘Creative Mash-up’, a catwalk showcase of Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy talent, style and creative flair.

The event was in the planning for many months with students and staff focused on this live Project Based Learning experience that involved students from the college’s Media Department working alongside Beauty Therapy, Hairdressing and Photography students.

Gloria Dickson, SWC Curriculum Manager, said; “Such cross college departmental engagement strengthens the student’s ability to engage in a whole new way.  Events like this provide learning beyond the classroom, boost confidence and enhance employability skills”.

The students were delighted that many of their family, friends and employers came along to the sold out show, which was compared by the renowned Andy Gordon. On display was a host of unique and bold hairdressing styles, make-up and outfits that inspired the imagination through colour and inventiveness.

Digital Technologies

On Tuesday, the Image Centre welcomed local hospitality and tourism organisations, including the Lough Erne Resort, Lusty Beg Island and Fermanagh Lakelands, to the Digital Technologies Showcase Event. The event demonstrated the latest developments in digital technologies, which could support potential marketing opportunities for the hospitality and tourism sector in Fermanagh.


Return from China

Students from South West College Enniskillen, Omagh and Dungannon, alongside students from the Loreto Grammar Omagh, Enniskillen Royal Grammar School, Bangor Academy and Lagan College, have recently returned from the trip of a lifetime in China.  The students took off from Belfast City Airport on Saturday 18th March for a two week adventure where they learned about Chinese culture, language and lifestyle.

The students were accompanied by Liam Curran, SWC Head of Higher Education, Linda Beatty, SWC Confucius Project Officer, and Emma Coulter, Bangor Academy. Linda Beatty said: ‘The Study China Visit from 18-30 March 2017 was amazing, all students thoroughly enjoyed the experience and agreed that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  All participants felt that, as a result of the trip that they have a better understanding of Chinese language, culture and history.

It was a very busy 12-day itinerary including 5 flights, 3 trains (including the Bullet Train, one of the fastest in the world, with speeds averaging 300kph) numerous coaches and 4 cities!

Highlights of the trip included a range of activities and sight-seeing: Opening Ceremony at Hubei Normal University, Chinese Cooking, Chinese Language Classes, Three Gorges Dam, Cruising on Yangtze River, The Great Wall, Olympic Park, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City.

The 20 students, who ranged in age from 14-18 years, came from across Northern Ireland and embraced all aspects of the trip. They became competent in using chopsticks and conversing in simple phrases, and were confident in negotiating/bargaining when buying souvenirs!  Everyone had fun and new friendships were formed.

SWC Barry McCarron’s Passive House Research in New Zealand

Barry McCarron, Research and Development Coordinator for the CREST Centre was invited to New Zealand to the Passive House Conference and Trade Show 2017 to talk about his research findings of the CREST project.

Barry has more than ten years’ experience with the construction Industry and specialises in Sustainable Construction and renewables Micro Generation, and undertook a PhD in Queen’s University to research, amongst other things, the Passive House Standard.

The Passive House standard was developed in Germany in the early 1990s and can be applied to residential dwellings and also to commercial, industrial and public buildings. The standards strengths lie in the simplicity of its approach, which aims to build a house that has an excellent thermal performance, exceptional airtightness and mechanical ventilation. This strong approach to building design allows the designer to minimise the ‘Heating Demand’ of the building and in some residential buildings only specify a heated towel rail as means of conventional heating. This heat can then be recovered and circulated by a Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) unit.

Jill Cush, Head of Business Development, said: “The College has carried out industrial R&D projects and training in low energy buildings for a number of years, driven by the development of the CREST Passive Pavilion in Enniskillen. We have identified a need to provide more advanced research support up to PhD level. Barry has over 10 years’ experience in industry in Sustainable Construction and Renewable Energy and has recently become a certified Passive House Design. He commenced a PhD in Passive House in 2016 and the conference in New Zealand afforded the opportunity for Barry to present his research finding on post-occupancy monitoring of a Passive demonstrator project at an international level.”

Traders of the Future get a Taste of the Business World

The next generation of business leaders were put through their paces recently as part of their BTEC level three diploma in Business at Enniskillen’s South West College. Four ‘real life’ businesses were formed by the first-year students who traded for eight weeks and learned some harsh business lessons on the way. For the past five years, the college’s Business diploma course has incorporated this project  based learning task, which includes a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch. Well done to the winning team “Sweet Inspirations”.


South West College Spark at SkillELECTRIC with Unprecedented Results

SkillELECTRIC is the premier skills competition for the UK’s electrical industry for best young electrician. The competition provides a platform to showcase the best electrical apprentices, and newly qualified electricians from across the UK participate in six regional heats to win a place in the competition’s outstanding final.

The regional competition requires competitors to assemble a number of electrical circuits, complete with the installation of associated power and switched components.  At this year’s competition, held at Southern Regional College, the top three places were secured by South West College candidates:

1st Place, Piaras McErlean, Dungannon campus; 2nd Declan Goulding, Omagh Campus; 3rd place, David McHugh Skills Centre, Enniskillen.

Michael Brogan, Curriculum Manager of Training, said: “We at SWC were delighted to have five apprentices out of the ten that competed at NI SkillELECTRIC this year, but to achieve 1st, 2nd and 3rd places overall is unprecedented in this particular event, I believe that it is down to the dedication of our staff, employers and the apprentices involved, that this magnificent achievement has taken place”.

Winners from SWC at Skillbuild NI Finals

Over 75 local construction apprentices gathered their tools to compete against each other in the annual Skillbuild NI National Finals which was held in Southern Regional College, Portadown on 24th March.

Skillbuild NI, which is now in its fortieth year, is supported by the Department for the Economy helping to assist with maintaining and raising the status and standards of professional and technical education and training. The competition is run and governed by CITB NI, is held annually each spring with many winners progressing further to represent Northern Ireland in the Skills Show UK and potentially at WorldSkills.

The college would like to congratulate all the students and staff involved in this year’s Northern Ireland Skillbuild and AutoSkills competitions last week.  The results table speaks for itself! #trainingexcellence

Vocational Area Trainee/Apprentice Medal Lecturer


Edward Allen Silver Jimmy Martin
Carpentry James  Beacon Gold Jimmy Martin
Gary Gray Silver Tony  Mc Gartland
Electrical Piaras McErlean Gold G O Neill/M Brogan
Declan Goulding Silver Mark Dalton
David McHugh Bronze Gerry O Brien
Joinery Kyle Weir Gold Michael Mc Cullagh
Painting and Decorating Megan Keys Bronze Conrad Wheeler
Plastering and Dry Lining Dermot Kirk Gold Colm McCaughey

Eamonn Cassidy/James Duffy

Curtis Howe Bronze Colm Mc Caughey/

Eamon Cassidy

James Duffy


NI Autoskills

Vocational Area Trainee/Apprentice Medal Lecturer
Light Vehicle Repair Timothy O’Hagan Gold Declan Mc Caughey/Conor Mc Gaughey/
Heavy Vehicle Repair Gareth Maguire Silver Ciaran Woods/Joshua Semple



Childcare students were out and about around the Omagh campus on Tuesday selling tickets for an Easter hamper to raise funds for ‘Habitat for Humanity’. This charity builds homes for vulnerable children and as such has struck a chord with our childcare students. Habitat NI focuses on building hope locally and around the world, with there pledge that: ‘We help build strong, vibrant communities at home while raising funds to support partner programmes around the world. These partnerships are focused on key themes: peace building, orphans and vulnerable children, the impacts of urbanisation, and disaster response and mitigation. By developing long-term partnerships with programmes, our support has a greater impact on vulnerable communities and we develop a better understanding of their needs.’