Eight South West College (SWC) students and two staff have been honoured in the first ever Further Education NI Excellence Awards which were which were hosted in Armagh.

The inaugural awards ceremony was held at the Armagh City Hotel on Tuesday night with award categories reflecting the wide spectrum of learning levels and pathways available at the Further Education Colleges, from introductory and supported learning to apprenticeships, higher education and lifelong learning.

The ceremony was also opened by the Economy Minister Conor Murphy who said: “I was delighted to attend these awards to celebrate the achievements of excellence by both students and staff across the further education sector.

“My economic vision has skills at its core and further education colleges have a significant role to play in delivering a regionally balanced economy with good jobs, higher productivity and which is reducing its carbon output.

“I commend our colleges, our students, our staff, and all who support you, for all that you do, and will continue to do, to support the north’s economy.

“I want to see and hear more of this excellence and for further education colleges to continue to collaborate, to lead, and to take their rightful place in the story of our improving economic outlook.”

The evening heard how so many award recipients have improved their job and life skills thanks to the incredible effort they have made during their studies at their local college. This included several people from Ukraine who have made their lives in Northern Ireland and have been supported through Further Education training to boost their existing skills to give them the best start here.

One of them was Oleisa Moliukova, a Year 14 student at Omagh Academy who was presented with the FE Excellence Award for School Partnership Programme. She is studying the Pearson BTEC Level Three Subsidiary Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment. Olesia arrived in Northern Ireland from Kyiv was praised for her remarkable commitment to her education and future career, as since joining the College she’s not only mastered the English language but also excelled academically.

Another SWC student recognised on the night was Kim Hunter from Cookstown, who received the FE Excellence Award for Apprenticeship Training. Kim is talented and emerging leader in mechatronics who is employed with Greiner Packaging. She was recognised for her innovative contributions in her field and dedication to promoting diversity in engineering.

Staff Recognition Awards for Lifetime Contributions were also presented on the night to two SWC staff for their service to the College and the local community, Tom Corr, a Science Lecturer in Enniskillen and Marie McGlone, Office Administrator at the Omagh campus.

South West College Principal Celine McCartan commented:

“I would like to congratulate all award recipients from South West College who were recognised for their excellence in their studies and their contribution to college life.

“The awards ceremony has been fantastic showcase of the collective good that Further Education brings to communities right across Northern Ireland. The stories we heard about the winners really demonstrate how FE enables people to unlock their true potential.

“It was also fantastic to hear about the achievements of our staff and I would like to thank Tom and Marie for their tireless service to South West College.”

Chair of the Further Education Colleges Principals Group, Leo Murphy also said:

"I am immensely proud to celebrate the achievements and commitment of our students and staff in the fields of Apprenticeships, Traineeships, Introductory Programmes, Level 3 Diplomas, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning.

“We're living through a transformative time in terms of skills, the education landscape is changing with new and exciting career paths for our learners. The Further Education sector has moved with those times in supporting and nurturing the superb talent we have across our colleges that will ensure the future success of our local economy.

“And of course that would not be possible without the dedication of our staff, so it is right to see them recognised for their decades of service to our colleges as well.”

Further Education