Demand for low cost and locally-based routes to honours degrees has resulted in record numbers of students signing up for foundation degrees, according to new figures from South West College.
In four years, enrolments on the vocational courses increased by 77 percent as the college, employers and universities jointly rolled out 40 programmes that have helped more than 3,000 to study locally and consider progressing to a full honours degree or professional qualification.
The work-based qualifications combine academic study with workplace learning and typically take two years of full-time study or three years part-time. The latest Foundation Degree in Arts & Design with specialisms in Product and Graphic Design, brings the total number of places available at South West College this term to a record 800.
William Young, Industrial Liaison Officer South West College, said the courses are designed with employers to ensure industrial needs can be quickly met with well-trained and high calibre talent:
“As our economy emerges from this deep and long recession, employers are focussing more and more on key employability skills. Gone are the days when employers could enjoy the luxury of extensive in-house training for new staff.
“The Foundation Degree, with the excellent blend of the academic and the vocational, provides a potential employer with the ready-made skills required to be effective and productive from day one. The South West College, through the Industrial Advisory Boards, encourages employers to be directly involved in the design and development of the curriculum content for the foundation degrees, thus ensuring that the training is relevant to meet their employment needs.
“A measure of the success of the Foundation Degree Programme has been the increasing trend by employers, who have given work placement experience to college students, to seek to retain those students in full-time employment after graduation.”
Hillsborough-based GRAHAM Construction holds well-established links with South West College and has partnered with the college on a number of Foundation Degrees. Emer Murnaghan Business Improvement Manager at the firm said:
“At GRAHAM our focus is on excellence and innovation in all that we do and we believe that recruiting and developing the next generation of construction professionals is fundamental to our future success. The foundation degree format is a key route within the GRAHAM Academy for young people to blend their ‘on the job’ experience with relevant and rigorous academic knowledge.
“Effective partnerships with local colleges need to be established and strengthened so that development can be provided at a time and location that fits with business needs. Identifying and nurturing talent from an early stage needs to be driven by joined up thinking, not just between educational providers and industry but especially local government, so that appropriate funding is directed to encourage success.”
Jonathan Glendinning, Assistant Director of Technical Services at Fermanagh District Council said:
"We have worked with students on the Foundation Degree Programmes from the South West College in recent years, and the Council's experience would be that the professionalism, dedication and knowledge demonstrated by the students at that level, is exemplary. The foundation degree equips students with a good mix of practical hands-on experience and theoretical knowledge, which prepares them well for entry into the workplace or continued studies at undergraduate level."
Established in 2007 and operating across Fermanagh and Tyrone, South West College offers more than 20,000 places for students of all ages and levels throughout its extended range of vocational training and Further and Higher Education courses.
Foundation Degrees are available at South West College’s Dungannon, Enniskillen and Omagh campuses. To find out more log on to www.swc.ac.uk or call 0845 603 1881.