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Welcome to Way Out West your unofficial guide to living, working and studying in the west of the province

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This time of year we’re usually preparing to open our campus doors and welcome prospective students and their parents in for our Open Days. As we can’t do that this year, we’re going virtual, with an exciting range of Virtual Open Days for Full-Time and Apprenticeship courses starting in September. The Virtual Open days will take the format of interactive online webinars with a live Q+A function and will be hosted live on You Tube Premiere. Students are encouraged to pre-register for the events and should log on to the Colleges website at www.swc.ac.uk to attend the virtual events.  

South West College Open Days are a highlight in the academic calendar and are an opportunity for prospective students, their family and friends to explore the Colleges wide range of internationally recognised courses first-hand and to help them better understand the range of career opportunities and pathways available to them, helping them to make better, informed choices. It’s important that we manage to reach as many if not more people through these virtual events as we would with our traditional open days, so we’re asking staff to play their part in the lead up to the events by spreading the word and sharing our posts on SWC social media pages.

The Higher Education at Home Virtual Open Days will explore the Colleges range of Higher Education and Higher-Level Apprenticeship programmes. They will take place from 5:30pm-6:30pm 8-10 February and are suitable for A level learners.  

Mondays Open Day will explore courses from the School of Health and Social care, Business Management and Specialist Education, Tourism, Hospitality and Hair and Beauty. Tuesday’s event will cover courses from the School of Sport and Life Sciences, the Natural and Built Environment and Creative Arts. On Wednesday prospective students will learn about courses from the Colleges School of Engineering, Mathematics and Computing and Automotive and Electrical programmes.  

Further Education and Apprenticeship Open Days will run from 22-24 February 5:30pm-6:30pm each day and are aimed at GCSE learners. On Monday’s Open Day students will explore courses from the School of Health and Social care, Business Management and Specialist Education, Tourism Hospitality and Hair and Beauty. Tuesday’s event will cover courses from the School of Sport and Life Sciences, the Natural and Built Environment and Creative Arts. On Wednesday prospective students will learn about courses from the Colleges Schools of Engineering, Mathematics and Computing and Automotive and Electrical programmes. Students should log on to the Colleges website www.swc.ac.uk to register for and attend all the virtual events.  

Higher Level Apprenticeships and apprenticeship programmes will be covered each evening.   

Prospective students and their parents can register to attend the online webinars by visiting the Colleges website at www.swc.ac.uk. Each day, prospective students will get to meet course teams and hear about the range of courses and pathways available at the College. 

For students who are unsure about which path to take, our Careers team can offer free impartial advice and are available by appointment. Our Careers Advisors can be contacted via email as follows, Dungannon and Cookstown Campus please email Claire O’Neill at Claire.O’Neill@swc.ac.uk, for Omagh Campus please email Teresa Taggart at Teresa.Taggart@swc.ac.uk and for Enniskillen Campus please email Nichola Melanaphy at Nichola.Melanaphy@swc.ac.uk.  

The Open Days will showcase the Colleges extensive range of Further and Higher Education programmes and apprenticeships. So, whether you’re leaving school and coming to College for the first time, looking to start an apprenticeship, or taking a step towards university or employment, SWC can support you every step of the way on your unique and prosperous journey.  

Former SWC Student working on the NHS Frontline

Inspiring local Armagh woman, Jacinta Kelly, a former SWC student and mum of three has recently graduated with a First-Class Honours BSC in Nursing at Queens University Belfast. Jacinta is currently employed as a Theatre Nurse at the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT) and has been redeployed to the front-line Intensive Care Unit (ICU) due to Covid-19. 

Before studying at SWC, Jacinta “dreamed of becoming a nurse” but due to barriers in her personal life worked for almost 20 years as a Health Care Assistant. As she approached 40 Jacinta said: “I started to think of becoming a nurse. I knew that if I did not at least try I would regret it for the rest of my life.” 

Seeking a new start, Jacinta attended an open evening at SWC and applied for the Full Time Access Diploma in Social Science’s at the Colleges Dungannon Campus to fulfil her aspirations. She said, “this would be the gateway I would need, to then apply to the various universities to study nursing.”  

Jacinta said “From day one the lecturers at SWC Dungannon were outstanding. They were so supportive and willing to give as much time to students as they needed.”  Jacinta a full-time mum of three faced many challenges and said: “Settling into the course and being a student again took a little getting used to. I was not prepared for the digital learning”. To improve her IT skills Jacinta also enrolled in computer classes at SWC.  

She continued “It was tough. At times, the workload seemed overwhelming especially as you were not going home to just concentrate on your coursework.” Juggling family life with study and work was daunting but Jacinta persevered and made critical life changes “by working most weekends” to ensure less disruption within her family life.  

Near the end of her studies Jacinta sadly lost her Mum praising SWC staff and peers for their help “without the encouragement of my lecturers and their support and also that of my fellow students I may not have had the energy to continue. But in the end, it all paid off.”  

Despite all the obstacles, Jacinta completed her studies. She explained “I was delighted to be awarded Access Diploma With distinction.” Having grown in confidence she progressed onto the BSC in Nursing at Queens University, Belfast and was proud to obtain a First-Class Honours Degree graduating in July 2020. Summarising she said, “it is a dream come true, one that South West College Dungannon facilitated and helped to make possible.” 

She, swiftly commenced employment as a Theatre Nurse in the SHSCT and within one month due to the Covid-19 pandemic she was redeployed to the front-line ICU and said, “I am glad and very fortunate to be able to help every way I can.”  

Childcare Course Leads to Local Job Opportunity for Samantha 

Samantha Kerrigan from Castlederg studied the City and Guilds Level 2 and Level 3 Diploma in Children’s Care, Learning and Development at South West College, Omagh Campus, where the qualifications and experience she gained led to a full-time job at a local primary school. 

Samantha said: “I finished my level 3 Diploma about four and half years ago. Going to South West College to complete my childcare studies was the best decision I ever made. I had the most amazing tutors who guided and supported me throughout my time there.” 

Samantha benefited from the rhythm and routine of studying at South West College, where classroom learning is balanced with placement opportunities which allow students to experience working in the industry. This approach allowed her to immediately put her theoretical knowledge and understanding into practice, and a successful placement programme even led to full time employment. 

“When I completed my course, my placement officer kept in contact with me, and as a result she was able to put my name forward to interview for a job as a Special Needs Classroom Assistant in a local primary school. I was so grateful to her for this opportunity and I have been in that school ever since.” Samantha said. 

South West College takes pride in being able to offer Further and Higher Education to people in their local regions, ensuring that students can pursue educational and career ambitions without disrupting their lifestyle, limiting their family life, or leaving their current employment. Certainly this was a factor for Samantha, who says, “I would really recommend anyone who is looking to continue their studies but don’t want to leave home to follow the direction I did and explore their opportunities at South West College. It was the best decision I ever made!” 

For further information and advice on further education, higher education and apprenticeship options, explore the SWC Open Days this February. Higher Education and Higher Level Apprenticeship events: 8-10 February, 5:30pm-6:30pm. Further Education and Apprenticeship events: 22-24 February, 5:30pm-6:30pm. To register for these virtual events please visit www.swc.ac.uk 

Brand new Cyber Security Degree Launched 

South West College (SWC) are now taking applications for a brand new Foundation Degree in Cyber Security due to commence September 2021 at the Colleges new Erne Campus, Enniskillen. The course will also be delivered province wide through blended learning.  

The course is accredited through the Open University. 

Globally, Cyber Security is one of the fastest growing sectors and it is predicted that there will be 10,000 unfilled cyber security jobs in Northern Ireland by 2026. The hope is that this new course will help fill the regional skills-gap in this specialist growth area. 

The course will focus on the networking skills and techniques that are used by industry to ensure security of systems as well as the architectural side of security design and architecture, security testing, investigations and response. Learners will learn how to apply an understanding of cyber threats, hazards, risks, controls, measures and mitigations, to help protect organisations, systems and people – reducing the risk of cyber attacks and unauthorised exploitation of systems, networks and technologies. 

The course is also an opportunity for employers to upskill existing staff through the part-time route. The College is also hoping to run the Cyber Security course as a Higher Level Apprenticeship, subject to approval.  

This two-year programme which can be delivered part-time, is an industry recognised course, offering progression to a 1-year top up degree in computing.  

For further information or to apply please visit www.swc.ac.uk, contact Heather.Ellison@swc.ac.uk or call the College directly on 028 8225 0109 ext. 2218.

How to Tackle Boredom During Lockdown

Once again we have found ourselves spending the majority of our time at home, restricted from going out and socialising, so it’s only natural that boredom will set in. But there’s always something we can do to tackle that boredom, and this week Wellbeing Wednesday looked at a few of the options.

Clear out your wardrobe. Why not dedicate some of your new found time to ditching the things you no longer need and making it easier for yourself to pick out your clothes each morning? Decluttering is known to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, boost productivity and creativity, and even save money, so it’s definitely worth a few hours of your time.

Improve your cooking skills. This idea is nothing new, but if you didn’t quite master your cooking skills during the first coronavirus lockdown, maybe it’s time you tried again? Start with the basics and work your way up from there.

Exercise. Exercise is one of the things we mention time and time again on Wellbeing Wednesday, but that’s for good reason. Even if you can’t visit your gym there’s still plenty you can do at home. Exercises like squats, burpees and press-ups can even be done without any equipment, while alternatively daily walks or runs allow you to get out into the fresh air.

Try out a new podcast or TV show. Podcasts are a great source of information and entertainment; whether it’s learning for your course or just listening to your favourite comedian. In recent years, TV series’ have replaced movies as our favourite source of entertainment. With so many to choice from, there’ll be something to cure the boredom.

Connect with friends. You’re not the only one a bit bored these days. People will appreciate a friendly chat or text message to let them know you’re thinking of them.

Give DIY a go or even learn a new language. There’s plenty of time these days to tackle some interior improvements that you didn’t get around to during the summer – be that painting your walls or rearranging a room. Or, if that’s not your thing, challenge yourself to learn a new language in just a few weeks. There are tons of free apps and websites dedicated to helping you.

Not all of these activities will suit everyone, and there’s no one who could do them all, but if you commit to one or two of them your wellbeing could be all the better for it!


#WOW Every year people around the world set themselves New Year resolutions. In reality, most of them tend to last a couple of weeks, or maybe a few months if you’re lucky or particularly dedicated and self-disciplined. The main issue is that many of the resolutions we set ourselves are simply unrealistic from the outset. They may sound great in theory and even start off well, but ultimately they become too hard to keep up with. This can lead to sense of failure or the typical ‘’ll try it again next year’ routine. Ahead of a new week, Way out West looks at ten resolutions you can make to help look after your mental wellbeing in 2021. Read the blog here.

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