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BTEC sets five local females on the right path to a career in construction

Five local women are blazing a trail towards successful careers in construction, with the help of a Level 3 BTEC extended diploma in Construction and Built Environment at the South West College (SWC) Omagh campus. Twins Bonnie and Katie Harper, Claire O’Brien from Omagh, along with Zara Little from Cookstown, and Niamh Colton from Dromore, made the decision to leave school at 16 and have since gained valuable industry experience and are enjoying the more practical approach that leads directly into higher education and a rewarding career in construction.

With an equal mix of girls and boys in their construction class, they have noticed a growing trend of more females entering the sector, they hope to inspire other young people, especially women to follow in their footsteps.

Reflecting on their decision to forgo A-levels, Bonnie, and Katie who attended Sacred Heart College chose the BTEC so they could focus solely on Construction. They have found the supportive tutors, excellent facilities, and modern Learning Resource Centre to be instrumental in their development.

Bonnie appreciates the focus on one subject and said: "One of the things I appreciate most about studying for a BTEC is the ability to focus on one subject and excel in it, rather than spreading oneself thin over multiple subjects. It also offers a clear pathway to university or higher education, and the opportunity to go out on work placement has been a valuable experience in preparing for my future career.

While Katie values the practical experience and reduced exam pressure compared to A-levels. Katie said: "The BTEC offers a more hands-on approach, where we have the opportunity to work with various civil engineering equipment like auto lights and site levels as well as work experience and site visits with top companies. This practical experience enhances our knowledge and prepares us for the workforce. I have found choosing this route over A-levels has alleviated exam stress and made it easier to achieve the grades I aim for. I would highly recommend SWC to others as it has allowed me to get to the level that I want in a way that is positive to my learning as well.”

Zara Little, who attended Cookstown High School, was drawn to the college course as it offered the equivalent of three A levels, aligning with her ambition to pursue architecture. She has thrived in the class environment and praises the tutors for their support and guidance.

Zara said: “The class is great, and the tutors are extremely helpful, always willing to sit down and assist with class work and coursework. I enjoy the opportunity to solely focus on construction, and study in areas such as further maths, and design drawing, analysing what works and what doesn't. Overall, the BTEC option is great as it offers the equivalent of 3 A levels and by doing project-based learning you get extra points for UCAS. It has set me on the right path, and I am now going to University of Ulster in September to study Architecture.”

Claire, a former student at Loreto Grammar School Omagh, values the freedom and supportive atmosphere at South West College, where teachers are approachable and helpful.

Claire said: "I appreciate the sense of freedom at the College allowing us time to focus on our work and the teachers are incredibly supportive and helpful, always providing assistance when needed."

Likewise, Niamh, a former Loreto Grammar School student, said, "It's a no-brainer to choose this pathway. If I had stuck with A Levels, I would have been forced to study subjects and take exams that didn't interest me. Whereas the BTEC pathway is more career focused and provides you with everything you need to progress into higher education or employment."

Niamh, Bonnie, Katie, Claire, and Zara would all highly recommend the Construction BTEC course at South West College and encourage other young people to explore their options and look into the wide range of BTEC options at the College.

Looking ahead, Bonnie, Katie, Claire and Niamh plan to continue their studies at South West College through a Higher Level apprenticeship in civil engineering, while Zara aims to study Architecture at Ulster University.

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