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South West College and Tracey’s launch new Erne Academy

Learning through innovation was the focus of a pioneering ‘Erne Academy’ launched today, Tuesday 15th October, on the site of the new South West College Erne Campus.  South West College in association with Tracey Brothers Ltd., the main contractors responsible for the Campus build, have collaborated to create a unique learning opportunity for students. 

Michael McAlister, Chief Executive, South West College, said;

“The Erne Campus at SWC will be a flagship for sustainable construction across these islands and beyond. We are very excited about the opportunities this Department for the Economy funded campus will present, both for our students at SWC and the Architectural/Construction Industries across the UK and Ireland. We have already had a significant number of designers and skilled construction personnel visit the college to undertake our PassivHaus Designer and PassivHaus Tradesperson certified training; this developing expertise, alongside a commitment to consider and address a broad range of environmental issues (energy, environmental impact, water usage, and sustainable construction techniques) provides a fertile backdrop for the future collaboration which will take place within the new Erne Academy.”

(L-R): John Moss, Head of Faculty, SWC, Siobhan Ferguson, SWC student on the Open University, BSc. Hons. in Construction Engineering & Management (Top-up), Michael McAlister, Chief Executive, SWC, Alan Strong, Smart Region Collaborative Officer, Francis McKenna, SWC student on the Open University, BSc. Hons. in Construction Engineering & Management (Top-up), Tracey McGovern, Tracey Bros., and John Tracey, Managing Director, Tracey Bros.

The Erne Academy will enable students to study in a ‘living learning laboratory’ created by the new campus environment, which will be the first educational building worldwide to achieve the highest international standard in environmental construction – PassivHaus Premium and BREEAM excellent, ranking it alongside prestigious buildings such as the Apple Campus 2 in terms of sustainable innovation and design.

South West College and Tracey Brothers have identified the One Planet Living Principles as a set of measures on which to develop the Learning from the Erne Academy; these principles were applied to support and deliver the bid to host the London 2012 Olympics, and their application to this large academic building is quite unique in these islands – wide ranging issues such as transport, carbon, water, Food, materials, land use, culture and health will be considered in the development and initial usage of this prestigious Erne Campus – a true Academy of Learning!

Therefore, through the Erne Academy, students, researchers and teaching academics will be able to identify industry best practice in relation to the use of technology and innovation to support sustainable living in the region. Areas such as, energy, environmental impact, water usage, and sustainable construction techniques will be examined in relation to design and building applications for domestic and commercial buildings in the future. A team of undergraduate and PHD researchers working and studying at South West College will lead on these developments, in conjunction with industry and innovation partners.

John Tracey, Managing Director, Tracey Brothers Ltd, said;

“Tracey Brothers are looking forward to working as partners with SWC on the Erne Academy. This Academy will be an innovative Knowledge Transfer tool which we believe will develop & deliver real world student centred case study material. We envisage this wider learning experience will provide mutual long-term benefits to both the academic and construction communities in technology, innovation & Sustainability.

Erne Campus Update 17/10/19

The target completion date for our Erne Campus is 6th August 2020, in time for the first intake of students in September 2020. The Contractor is on target to achieve this date and work on site is progressing at a great rate. The building is already taking shape as an iconic part of the Enniskillen landscape, and now we can reveal what some of the interior of the campus will look like. Use the slide bar on the images below to view what the building looks like now and what it will look like upon competition.

The new college building is designed over four floor levels. The top two floors are 180 metres in length, from one end to the other (no difficulty in clocking up your 10,000 daily steps there!). The First floor footprint is smaller than the levels above, at 126 metres in length, and the ground floor is smaller again, at 72metres. This is due to the fact that the site is sloping and the building responds to its setting by stepping down the slope.

The roof is now completed, with photovoltaic panels installed along its length. The glazed curtain walling is complete to the south elevation overlooking the town and most of the glazing has been completed to the north elevation, facing onto the main college carpark, where brickwork is also completed. Vertical cladding panels are now being applied to the remainder of the façade providing a contrast to the horizontality of the brickwork. Due to the proximity of the Old Workhouse on the same site, the colour of the brickwork in the new Erne Campus has been chosen to sensitively reference it.

Curriculum Conference 2019

At South West College, we believe that spreading good news and best practice information celebrates the pride and creativity that all our staff have in their work. However, we also acknowledge that sometimes we do not take the time to appreciate all that we do achieve through our daily endeavors.

Therefore, this year’s Curriculum Conference is focusing on the basics of communication, collaboration and reflection, thus we have stolen a line from the old BT corporate slogan – “It’s good to talk”, but more importantly we have added – ‘It is good to listen’, two key attributes to foster success relationships with our colleagues, peers and students.

This conference will provide a platform to focus on sharing ideas, learning from professionals, supporting each other, and concentrates on our collective priority – the student learning experience!


It’s good to talk: It’s good to Listen

9:30am – Welcome: Michael McAlister – Central Hall G84
9:50am – Keynote Address: Steve Oakes – Developing the Positive Student
10:30am – My Student Journey – Jordan Stinson
10:50am – Learner Management
11:00am – Break – Tea / Coffee – First Floor

Workshops – Staff should attend all 3 workshops

11:15am – Morning Workshop Choice
12:15pm – Noon Workshop Choice
1:15pm – Lunch – First Floor
2:00pm – Afternoon Workshop Choice
3:00pm – Close – Central Hall G84
Recognising Lecturer Skills
Development Competition Results

SWC Launches new Health and Well-being Initiative

To coincide with World Mental Health Day, 10th October 2019, South West College (SWC) launched a number of new health and well-being initiatives including; SWC Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) and an online Mental Health Awareness Module and Toolkit of Resources.

Mental health is the way we think and feel and our ability to deal with life’s ups and downs. Mental health issues are far from uncommon and at least one in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental health issue this year.

Work plays a major role in most of our lives – it’s where we spend much of our time, earn our income and very often, where we build our social networks of friends. Having a fulfilling job and being happy in the workplace can be good for our mental health and general well-being.

Employers also have a legal responsibility to help their employees and there is evidence to suggest that workplaces with high levels of mental health well-being are more productive. Therefore it is in employers’ interests to have mechanisms in place to make the workplace more mentally healthy for everyone.

Speaking about the launch of the new SWC health and well-being initiatives, Michael McAlister, Chief Executive said:

“At South West College we are committed to investing in mental health initiatives to support our staff and students. Sometimes life can get on top of us, whether it is work-related stress or something going on in our personal lives. Ultimately we want to boost the mental health of both our staff and students by putting the necessary procedures in place to support their needs.

“Our new designated mental health first aiders are trained in recognising the warning signs of people in need of support and the online module provides a range of

supporting tools and information to encourage staff to take reasonable care for their own health, safety and well-being whilst at work.”

The SWC Mental Health First Aiders are designated staff at each campus who will be the go-to person for anyone experiencing some form of emotional or psychological well-being or mental health issue. The MHFA team will wear a green ribbon which identifies them as a mental health first aider within SWC.

The College’s new online module provides an overview and awareness of mental health and well-being issues in the workplace and a toolkit of resources has been created to support and assist all staff in maintaining positive mental health and well-being.

‘Doors and Floors’

Last week some College staff attended a training session on Trauma informed practice. Feedback from the event was excellent, and one of the speakers has as a result, been invited to speak at our Curriculum Conference on 28th October 2019. This speaker, the Principal of a College in Portadown described some actions they took to effect a significant change in the school ethos and outcomes; one of the changes was:

“every member of our SMT will take turns to greet students at the door each day; so the first thing our students see is a friendly face.”

Obviously they found that the role of greeter is much wider and more powerful than “stopping smoking.” This is already known in the hospitality industry where a greeter is an important role in Hotels, restaurants, etc. It also helps us as Managers to get a sense of what’s happening on the ground, and get in touch with students. This was described to the Board of Governors who felt that this approach was worth trialling in SWC. The proposal was discussed and agreed at the College Management Team meeting on 8th October.

Specifically, as a trial for one month, every member of Management staff (CE, Deputy CE, ACEs, Heads of Faculty, Heads of School, Heads of Centre’s for Excellence, Heads of Support Functions) to carry out the following on a weekly rota:

–         Greet students as they walk in through the front and back doors of each Campus;

–         Talk to groups of students who congregate in those or adjacent areas;

–         Encourage students congregating after 9am to move to class; and

–         Walk the corridors / staff work areas at or about 9.10am to see if any issues are apparent.

This will hopefully be something that gives Managers a useful insight into various things as they happen “on the ground”; it will show students a friendly face each morning and will facilitate a visible Management presence each morning.

NI Apprenticeship Awards 2020

The Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Awards 2020 are open for applications. Closing date for nominations is Friday 25 October.

The NI Apprenticeship Awards recognise: Apprentices who are making a significant contribution in their workplace and have shown a dedication to excel in their professional development and learning & Partnerships between employers and Training Suppliers that support the continuous growth of apprenticeships in Northern Ireland. More information can be found here.

Health and Wellbeing

The South West College Health and Wellbeing survey is live and it would very beneficial if staff could take a few minutes to complete it in order to help us plan the delivery of YOUR health and wellbeing programme.

Find the survey here.

World Mental Health Day

To mark World Mental Health Day #WMHD19 Inspire Workplace & Student Wellbeing Education Authority #FLAREProject were in the Omagh Campus today helping answer students questions about mental health.

Also as part of // #WORLDMENTALHEALTHDAY19 // These students took part in a short but effective calming breathing exercise this morning with their lecturer Jeanette. Just a few minutes of mindful breathing, away from phones and screens can help to calm the mind. Definitely worth a go with the busy lives we lead…

And in Enniskillen for World Mental Health day…A little stretch and meditation session with our wonderful Childcare group… ‘Your mental health, emotional health and spiritual health are all just as important as your physical health’ ‘Take care of your mind and it will take care of you’ 😊💆🏼‍♀️💆🏼‍♂️

Meet our Students

Former South West College, Health and Social Care student describes a degree which is “continually evolving and providing students with practical experience.”

Esports @ SWC Dungannon

Having successfully trialled Esports last year, the first Esports meeting of the new semester took place in Dungannon. In total, over 30 students attended this meeting and 77 students have declared an interest in joining Esports @SWC. Focus will be on PC gaming with links to teamwork/building along with other curriculum based activities. Games must be free to play such as Fortnite, Apex Legends, Dota 2, CSGO and League of Legends. Weekly competitions will take place and it is hoped that cross campus tournaments can be arranged. If you are interested, email: esports@swc.ac.uk and when more details become available you will be notified.


Join us on Friday 25th October from 10:30am in the Etcetera Restaurant (Dungannon Campus) for coffee and cake. Proceeds will be in aid of the Education Foundation for South Sudan. 🍰 ☕

Women in Engineering

Engineering is one of several industries which has recently seen a significant upturn in the number of female employees. It should be no surprise, because organisations such as the Women’s Engineering Society have been around since 1919, fighting for their vision of ‘a nation in which women are as likely as men to choose to study and work in engineering.’

For South West College student Monica, it’s a natural situation. Monica says: “I don’t know where it was ever considered a ‘manly’ industry or anything like that. I’m a consultant and I work in an office much like an accountancy office or any other. There’s nothing manly or female about it. In the workplace there are still more men, but you never feel outnumbered in the classroom, and you’re always made feel welcome. I’d like to hope that in ten or fifteen years we’ll be even closer to a balance in the workplace.”

Monica is a Higher Level Apprentice (HLA), studying fist year Civil Engineering at South West College and working for Atkins Consultancy in Belfast. She has always had an interest in Engineering and decided that a HLA was a better option for her than university.

‘It always occurred to me that if I go to university I’m signing up for a four year course without any guarantee that I’ll like the career at the end of it, or even like the course. Here, with an apprenticeship, I could get into the workplace and gain a feel for whether I actually liked it. It seemed a better option, and now I’ve found out that I do enjoy the work, so it’s worked out well for me so far.’ Read more of this story on Way out West…