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Higher Education Close to Home: The Right Route for Rugby Player Jake

Rugby player, Jake Reid, from Seskinore in County Tyrone made the decision to study higher education at South West College, where he successfully completed the Ulster University Foundation Degree in Civil Engineering at the Omagh campus as a Higher-Level Apprentice working with MetStructures, Fintona.

After finishing his A-Levels at Omagh Academy, Jake was unsure about his future path. He applied to university and was accepted, but his love for hands-on learning led him to pursue a Civil Engineering Higher-Level Apprenticeship programme at the South West College Omagh Campus.

He said: “During my A-Levels I didn’t know what I wanted to do career wise, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to university but applied for it anyway; I was accepted and got the grades for university. However, I have always loved the practical side of learning and knew I was a more hands-on learner than just reading it from a book, so when I became aware of the Higher-Level Apprenticeship programme available at South West College, I immediately knew it was the course for me.”

The HLA programme would allow Jake to study to foundation degree level, while working and earning a wage. Another key factor in Jake's decision was the opportunity to study close to home, allowing him to balance his passion for sports, particularly rugby, with his academic pursuits. Being surrounded by friends who were also pursuing higher education locally added to the appeal.

Jake who plays rugby for Omagh Academicals said: “From a young age I’ve always been passionate about sports, between rugby or football I was always playing some sort of sport. So, I’d say this was a factor in studying close to home, due to the fact lots of my friends were doing the same.”

This allowed him to study, work and play sports while earning his foundation degree. Throughout his apprenticeship, Jake received mentorship from knowledgeable lecturers who not only imparted course material but also offered industry guidance. Working with MetStructures also provided Jake with valuable practical experience in construction.

Jake was also awarded the prestigious Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Quest Technician Scholarship and was awarded a Scholarship of £1,000, in recognition of his outstanding achievements. Jake is currently working towards his professional qualifications and hopes to become a professionally qualified technician with ICE(EngTech TMICE).

Reflecting on his journey, Jake believes that choosing the Higher-Level Apprenticeship course was the right decision for him. He credits the lecturers at South West College for not only teaching the course material but also for providing valuable insight into the industry, helping him push towards chartership and achieving the prestigious Quest Scholarship.

Jake said: “I really do believe I made the right decision choosing and completing this Higher-Level Apprenticeship course because of how much I’ve learned being the in-work environment. I would 100% tell anyone who asks me or is thinking about doing the course that it’s the right decision. Due to how much knowledge and experience the lecturers have, they do more than just teach the course, they answer any questions you might have about the industry also.

Throughout this whole apprenticeship the lecturers have been incredibly good at teaching and answering questions, from the beginning they were always an email away if I had any questions regarding the course as well as their experience in the industry. The most significant thing I learned while at SWC is the number of different routes and doors available in this industry.”

Looking towards the future, Jake has his sights set on progressing to either university or the Open University Course at the College. Jake is also working towards completing his Eng Tech with the ICE, which serves as the initial step towards achieving his goal of becoming a Chartered Engineer.

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