Apprentice of the Year Awards

Apprentice of the Year Awards
July, 2013
South West College was delighted at the achievements of two of its Gold Engineering Programme students at the recent Apprentice of the Year Awards in Belfast, funded by the Department of Education and Learning.

Josh Mens, an 18-year-old 2nd year student from Dungannon, is an apprentice on the Gold Engineering Programme at the College, and was awarded Apprentice of the Year 2013. Josh is training as a Design Engineer, employed by Kiverco Recycling Systems Limited. His employer, Anne McKiver said, “Josh’s innate engineering ability became apparent when he started his apprenticeship with us two years’ ago.” She continued, “Josh’s passion for engineering, coupled with his ability to learn quickly and retain new ideas, clearly demonstrates he is fully deserving of this accolade.” Josh said he was “overwhelmed” to receive the award and that this was “recognition of his overall achievement, what he can do, what he wants to do and what he aspires to be.”

Martin Carberry, Lecturer at South West College, had nothing but praise for Josh, stating, “Josh consistently performs to an excellent standard in all areas of his engineering course. It makes no difference whether he is studying health and safety, mathematics or using a manual lathe - the work produced is always to the same exceptionally high standard. Josh shows inspirational qualities and maturity beyond his 18 years.” The future looks very bright for both South West College and their apprentices.

Gavin Clarke, a 1st year mature student on the Gold Engineering Programme, from Tandragee, scooped the Most Promising 1st Year award at the same event. Gavin commented that “achieving this award is a reflection of the time and effort that myself, my tutors and the staff at Greiner Packaging have put into this apprenticeship scheme.”

Darryl McShane, Operations Manager at Greiner Packaging, highlighted the importance of the Gold Programme, saying, “One of the objectives of the programme is to ensure we recruit the highest quality individuals, irrespective of gender. There is a much higher requirement to have the right mental ability and problem-solving methodology and this allows both male and female employees the opportunity to grow within the business and develop exciting and challenging careers.”

Josh and Gavin received their awards from TV Presenter, Claire McCollum, who hosted the awards ceremony at a special function in Belfast where Department of Education and Learning Permanent Secretary, Alan Shannon, praised the apprentices and the companies which employ them.

The Gold Engineering Programme is an Advanced Technician Apprenticeship open to students with an excellent academic background who are interested in pursuing a career in the Engineering industry in areas such as Design, Research and Development, Screening Technology maintenance, and Procurement and Manufacturing Management in a structured environment where they effectively ‘learn while they earn’. Successful students progress on to Foundation Degree courses, aiming to complete their studies at University with a full Honours Degree.

Alecia Knox is due to complete her first year on the Gold Engineering Advanced Technician course. She knew from an early age that she wanted to pursue a career in engineering and has a strong background in Mathematics and Technology. Alecia said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome into the industry and thoroughly enjoy all aspects of the course." Alecia currently works for Greiner Packaging and has excelled in all departments, both academically and practically.

Malcolm Forbes, Training Co-ordinator at Greiner Packaging, says, “Alecia’s proactive approach will ensure her success within our organisation, and gives us every confidence that she will continue to apply herself.”

Martin Carberry, lecturer on the programme at the College, commented that “Alecia is a role model for all female students thinking of a career in engineering, especially for those who may have reservations regarding the fact that this can be seen as a rather male-dominated sector."

Rhoda O’Neill, Lecturer at South West College, told us, “We would like to see more females coming into our Engineering and Manufacturing courses – women can bring different skills sets to a manufacturing business and often a high level of attention to detail can lead to minimal errors and increased productivity.” Rhoda continued, “There is currently a skills shortage in Northern Ireland and this is not set to improve in the immediate future. HNC, HND and Foundation Degree Engineering courses are particularly suited to students who are good at problem-solving and can work in a methodical and logical manner.”