Students from across Further Education Colleges across Northern Ireland have taken part in the inaugural Sectoral Project Based Learning Awards (PBL). The event, which was hosted at North West Regional College saw a number of innovative projects which students are working on, after receiving a live brief from clients.

The entrepreneurial accomplishments of the South West College (SWC) Employment, Training and Personal Development Group were recognized at the 2023 Intercollege Competition. The event hosted by the Entrepreneurship Hub at Northern Regional College, gathered students from all six FE Colleges at their Newtownabbey campus. Following preliminary qualifying rounds at each college, the top entry from each of the four categories - Entrepreneurial, Sustainability, Innovation, and Social Impact - advanced to the final.

At SWC, the preliminary competition took place on the last week of May. Participants in the competition were required to make a written submission outlining how their project met the criteria in the first stage of the competition, and again at the sectoral final.

Students from Level 3 BTEC in Computing entered the Entrepreneurial and Innovation categories, the Social Impact category was represented by the Level 1 Employment, Training and Personal Development Group and Nigel Wiltshire. Whilst all projects were of an excellent standard only three made it to the Entrepreneurship hub grand final in Newtownabbey.

During the final competition, students had ten minutes to pitch their ideas to the judges, highlighting how their project fulfilled the eligibility criteria for the category, which included aspects such as creating value from an idea, positive impact on the environment, new/improved product or service, and positive impact on social economy/society. The projects were assessed based on the project itself, as well as communication and presentation skills.

Notably, the Employment, Training and Personal Development Group of Omagh stood out with their exceptional work impressing the judging panel on the Sensory Garden and Outdoor Space project, they secured the title of “Social Impact Category” Project Winner taking first place over all of the 6 FE Colleges.

Highlighting the significance of project-based learning, Gemma Dunn, EPIC project-based learning coordinator at SWC, emphasised its growing popularity as a powerful teaching method for students at all educational stages. She emphasised that by offering students projects centred on real-life challenges/projects, they are provided with the opportunity to delve into complex situations, conduct thorough research, and develop innovative solutions that go beyond the confines of assigned tasks.

Gemma said: "This contemporary approach to education focuses on equipping young minds for future employment, nurturing their involvement in practical projects, and cultivating their entrepreneurial skills. There is no doubt that project-based learning tremendously benefits students, and this project serves as an outstanding example. Through this experience students have successfully produced interesting and creative projects and demonstrated exceptional entrepreneurial skills. Congratulations to all participants and winners in each category."

For more information about EPIC project-based learning at SWC, please contact Gemma Dunn: or visit

EPIC - Project Based Learning