South West College offers a broad range of student internships and work placements, all of which provide a link between academic learning and professional employment, allowing students to experience work first hand and evaluate the types of jobs that match their interests and personality. Internships provide excellent learning and development opportunities in a broad range of disciplines, including; marketing, multimedia, IT support, estates management, human resources, and on-line learning.
One such intern is Natalie Lynsey, who is currently working in the South West College IDEA centre, having completed her Foundation Degree in Design (Product and Graphic) last year. For Natalie, working in the College is a chance to develop the skills she picked up in her time as a student, and she says that her studies, along with the her work placement with the Fab Lab in Derry, where she gained first hand training using things such as 3D printers and laser cutters, gave her the confidence needed for her application and interview process.
Only a month into her year-long internship, Natalie says she is already looking at her future differently. She says, ‘I was originally thinking of going into industry, but now the idea of teaching definitely appeals to me. It’s great to be availing of the experiences on offer here at the South West College, and there’s a great balance between teaching and communicating directly with industry. There’s always people coming in looking to upskill, and there are students coming in to familiarise themselves with the machines, and you always learn more yourself when you’re teaching them. I’ve already gained further insight by meeting and communicating with clients. It’s given me insight into the industry and what I might do in the future, and allowed me to put into practice a lot of what I studied at the college.’
Paul Duffy, course c-coordinator of the Foundation Degree in Design (Product and Graphic) says Natalie’s internship is a great way to progress from her time as a student. Paul explains: ‘Natalie is one of the first students to graduate from the course, and we’ve seen students from her class go in various directions. Pauric Daly has started his own business, while another graduate is working locally, full time with the business where he spent his work placement. It’s testament to the flexibility of the course and how we strive to gear it towards the particular paths our students want to go down, with modules tailored to match their needs. The College internships are a great opportunity, and Natalie will benefit from further experience here. The chemistry and culture in the college means that students and staff work closely together, so she already knows the staff as well as being familiar with her surroundings. She is in a great position to deal with new students. If a student asks me about the course I can tell them everything they need to know, but what’s even better is if they can talk to Natalie, because she’s just finished it herself.
The course itself is aimed at creative people who have an interest in either product design or graphic design, but the skills taught are transferable between the two, and Paul says that students generally end up discovering new interests throughout. He explains, ‘We find that students who come in wanting to work with graphics quickly discover an interest in the practical stuff, and those who are only interested in the practical quickly find a passion for graphics.’
The Foundation Degree in Design (Product and Graphic) is a relatively new course, available in both Omagh and Enniskillen, and the nature of the industry it serves means that it is ever changing. Paul explains, ‘In two years we could see a completely new technology which nobody has ever heard of, but all the tutors here are still involved in industry and know the world of what we teach, so there’s no concerns about falling behind. Likewise the facilities at South West College have always been first class, even ahead of industry. When the students leave us they have all the skills necessary to go straight into working in the industry, and just as importantly, have a fantastic attitude and application which will last them for evermore.’