THE decision to do a vocational computing course at Northern Regional College is paying dividends for a Ballymena teenager.
Tiernan Graham Da-Cruz, who is in the second and final year of a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Information Technology/Computing at the College, said the course offers great opportunities for anyone interested in a career in computing.
He said: “It has given me so many enjoyable and worthwhile experiences, this includes attending workshops and opportunities for work experience. The class team building activities are not only fun, but great learning experiences.”
Earlier this year, Tiernan and his classmates took part in week-long Catalyst Generation Innovation program at Catalyst’s premises in Titanic Quarter, which is a work experience program targeted at ambitious 17–18-year-olds interested in upskilling for the jobs of the future .
Participants receive design thinking training and learn how to work as part of a team to develop new solutions and communicate their ideas.
IT lecturer at the College, Emma Butler, explained what the Generation Innovation program involved: “Students were divided into teams and assigned a company to work with for the duration of the programme.
“Each team had to use their design, creativity, and innovative skills to come up with a solution to a specific problem given to them by the company. They then created a prototype based on the best ideas and, on the final day, pitched their solution to their peers and senior managers.
“Tiernan’s team, which was mentored by Instil, a Belfast software engineering company, was named overall winner.
“Each of the seven members of the team were presented with Apple Airpods, and ticket to attend the INVENT Awards in the Waterfront Hall.”
Emma added: “The INVENT Awards Night celebrates innovation and was a wonderful opportunity for students to meet and mingle with some of Northern Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs and IT companies and see the possibilities of entrepreneurship.”
The challenge for Tiernan’s team who were from schools and colleges across Northern Ireland was to come with ideas to engage people in protecting trees, to inspire a love for trees and raise awareness of Tree Preservation Orders (TPO).
He said: “We decided the best way to tackle the problem was to raise awareness, so the team came up with a plan to create and run marketing campaigns on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
“We also created a Snapchat filter with augmented reality to allow users to virtually plant trees, as well as a mobile app and website to spread awareness of TPOs and allow people to donate money to the cause.”
The Level 3 Extended Diploma is an academic equivalent of three A levels.
The two-year full-time course is a recognized progression pathway to university and is highly regarded by employers.
Looking to the future, Tiernan would like to do a Higher Level Apprenticeship as a stepping-stone to a career in the IT sector.
Tiernan said he would have no hesitation recommending the course: “It is a great first step for anyone who would like to go into the IT field. It gives you an accredited qualification and covers a wide range of topics to give a good introduction to various aspects of IT. It also provides you with other important life skills that, such as communication, project and time management, teamwork, motivational and leadership skills.”
“All of these skills and experiences have helped me to become more confident and this will help me in the future.”
He added: “I gained so much from the different opportunities, such as the Catalyst Innovation program and made many valuable friends and connections that I would not have made without the course.
In addition to the Level 3 Extended Diploma in IT/Computing, Northern Regional College offers a range of full-time and part-time courses in IT/Computing, from Level 1 up to and including Foundation Degree.
Applications are now invited for the Essential Skills ICT courses (Levels 1 and 2) which will start in January 2023. For information on all courses, go to www.nrc.ac.uk.