Higher Level Apprentice Darren Harte from Cabragh is set to achieve his Level 6 Honours Degree in Engineering at the South West College (SWC).
Darren had aspirations to become an Engineer and left school after completing his GCSE's. He enrolled at SWC on a Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Engineering, which offered him an employed learning pathway all the way up to a Level 6 Honours Degree in Engineering with Higher Level Apprenticeship which is funded by the Department for the Economy.
Darren explained: "The College offered high-quality engineering facilities for me to learn and develop my skills. The opportunity to study locally was an added bonus which subsequently led me to enrol at the SWC Dungannon campus on an apprenticeship Level 2 Diploma in Engineering, progressing onto Level 3, where I learned to apply a range of Fabrication and Welding skills whilst gaining the knowledge and inspiration to advance within my job and personally."
Darren appreciated earning while learning and advanced onto a Level 4 HNC in Manufacturing Engineering with HLA, which proved beneficial to his career progression. Darren said: "It helped me succeed at exploring and gaining valuable experience in other areas of Engineering, which in turn empowered me to progress into areas such as Costing, Manufacturing and Design."
The mix of College learning combined with employment helped Darren smoothly transition to a Foundation Degree in Engineering which offered direct entry into SWC's new Level 6 - BEng Hons Engineering Top-Up Degree, which Darren is currently studying alongside HLA employment with Terex Ecotec.
Darren explained: "The degree has been very enjoyable and worthwhile. The units are all industry-relevant, helping to consolidate my knowledge. I learned specialist skills, including Innovation through Engineering Design, Operations and Business Management, Industrial Automation and Robotics, writing up software ladder logic and structured text-based programming, building a Festo Pneumatics rig, uploading the programme to PLC, and seeing it work on the Festo Pneumatics rig and also how to programme a Robot.
My SWC experience from Level 2 NVQ right through to Level 6 BEng Hons Degree has been a learning curve. Overall, great experience due to the friendly and supportive approach from the College, and the lecturers are industry trained, so can relate to certain things at work offering tailored advice. SWC is great as they continually see what skills and knowledge are needed within the courses and offer part-time courses to help people achieve new skills and qualifications that they need or want to achieve.
The apprenticeship pathway goes far beyond academic study, offering the opportunity to learn key work-based skills relevant to the industry locally and worldwide. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would like to thank all the staff who have helped me along the way in learning and achieving high marks in all qualifications throughout my time at SWC. In the future, I hope to progress through achieving promotions at work and have ambitions of maybe becoming my own boss one day."
Alastair Booth, Head of School of Engineering at SWC, said: "Darren's journey displays the seamless progression opportunities SWC can provide within our industry designed curriculum to 'Earn and Learn' your way to the heights of your choice - locally."
For further information and to apply, please visit www.swc.ac.uk. Higher Level apprenticeships are funded by the department for the Economy.