"Back in the 1980's, I was the only girl in my BTEC class, but that is changing thankfully, and there is so much opportunity for women now to become involved and make a real difference in Engineering."

Looking to advance her career, adult learner Roisin Meenagh chose to return to Higher Education at South West College (SWC) to study a Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA) Foundation Degree in Engineering. Choosing to study as an HLA meant that, with support from her employer, Roisin could undertake her Higher Education HLA Foundation Degree in Mechatronic Engineering, earning a salary with no course costs while building a wealth of skills and knowledge enabling her to further her career opportunities. Roisin successfully completed her Foundation Degree and has progressed to studying a BEng (Hons) Degree in Engineering (Top Up) at South West College, part time.

She said, "Back in the 1980's it wasn't as common or acceptable for women to do engineering of any description, and it wasn't a career that was promoted. So, it was no surprise that in 1991 while I was studying Electronics at the old Technical College in Omagh, there weren't many females in the department, let alone my class. In fact, I was the only girl in my BTEC class, but that is changing thankfully, and there is so much opportunity for women now to become involved and make a real difference in Engineering."

Over the years, Roisin saw the industry change but always felt her job prospects were limited, as she didn't have the necessary higher-level qualifications. In pursuit of her dream career as a Design Engineer and with conventional university out of the question, Roisin looked into alternative routes and discovered that South West College, right on her doorstep, had a wide range of Higher Education courses such as Foundation Degrees, HLAs and Top-up Degrees which offered flexible study options and matched her requirements.

"As an adult learner South West College has offered me the opportunity to study to Degree level locally, at a time that suits me."

She said: "I appreciated the opportunity, not only to be able to study Engineering to degree level but to be able to do that in my own area, just down the road, is marvellous. Not having to travel to Belfast or further and to be able to continue to work full time while I'm studying is the perfect way for me to get my degree."

Roisin studied an Ulster University Foundation Degree in Mechatronic Engineering through a Higher Level Apprenticeship, and has progressed to currently studying an Open University BEng (Hons) Degree in Engineering (Top Up) at South West College Omagh campus on a part-time basis while simultaneously working at a local engineering firm.

Roisin said, "South West College is a fantastic environment to learn in and the staff are always friendly and helpful. Likewise, the lecturers are knowledgeable, and the encouragement and support that I have received has been brilliant. They are always willing to help and go that extra mile to get you to the finish line, always being at the end of a text or email calming you down when you panic over deadlines.”

“Even though the course is very intensive, I've enjoyed the whole learning experience. I have made some great friends and had amazing experiences at South West College. I'm glad I had the opportunity to study here and achieving the Foundation Degree and the Top-up degree has opened up new opportunities for me within Engineering.”

"I love working in the engineering sector, and although it's hard work, it is satisfying to see an end product. I find the work interesting, and every day brings something different.”

“I would recommend anyone young or old to study at South West College. The range of courses now available is brilliant, and for anyone who doesn't want to go away to study it's perfect, you can study the course you want and stay local. The standard of teaching matches any other College or University.”

“When I complete my degree, I hope to progress into a Design Engineer role, embrace all the challenges, and enjoy the satisfaction that engineering brings. As I already work full time, I hope that I have, and will continue, to improve as an Engineer. You are never too old to learn, so you never know, I may cross the doors of South West College again."

For further information follow South West College on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or to apply, please visit www.swc.ac.uk

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