North West Regional College wins top UK Employer Engagement Award

By Erin Hutcheon

North West Regional College (NWRC) has won the award for Best Employer Engagement at the Times Educational Supplement (Tes) Further Education Awards 2020.

This prestigious award, open to Further Education colleges across the UK, recognises strategic and innovative approaches to delivering employers’ workforce development needs.

Judges said that the college had given staff and students a real chance to engage with employers, while simultaneously responding to the needs of businesses. They added: “Creating a centre that employers gain real value from, benefits everyone at the college over and over again.”

Dr. Fergal Tuffy, Technology Innovation Manager at NWRC said: “The team at NWRC’s Business Support Centre (BSC) are delighted to receive this award in the category of ‘Employer Engagement.’

“When we opened our dedicated Business Support Centre in 2015 it was as a direct response to the region’s economic and employment challenges.

“Today, it has supported more than 1,300 companies, providing bespoke upskilling and training opportunities, and is working with local employers to source funding for innovation and research projects. The centre has a specialist team of 23 staff, who receive regular training and keep abreast of new technologies to keep their industry knowledge and skills up to date.

“Despite the arrival of Covid, the BSC has trained more than 185 employees from 116 businesses to level 2 or above, and undertaken more than 75 specialist interventions to assist businesses in developing new products, processes and services in food and drink, engineering and product design, IT and augmented reality. The BSC was recently awarded an ‘Outstanding’ grade by InnovateUK for a knowledge transfer project with AE Global.”

“The College has also made a £2 million strategic investment in industry focussed Technology Innovation Centres to drive economic growth in the region. These are state-of-the-art applied research and development and training facilities, namely the Foodovation Centre (combining innovation for the food and drink industry), the DIAL Centre (Design Innovation for Assisted Living) and the Product Design Centre which supports students, staff, entrepreneurs, industry and the community with information about new technologies, and assist early-stage entrepreneurs, micro and SMEs with idea generation and product prototyping.

“The College is also collaborating with local councils on various skills interventions in the computing, engineering and hospitality industries to provide employment opportunities for those out of work.”

Patrick McKeown, Director of Finance and Economic Engagement at NWRC, also commented: “I offer my warmest congratulations to the team at BSC for this recognition of their sterling work in engaging with employers.

“In the past few years the BSC has played a pivotal role in assisting with the creation of over 600 jobs for the NW region by supporting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) companies such as FinTrU, and Alchemy Technology Services, to grow and create employment in the local area. We are continuing to support businesses to recruit traditional and higher level apprenticeships and to train and upskill their existing and future workforce.”

Leo Murphy, Chief Executive and Principal at NWRC said the award was recognition of the role that is played within FE colleges to support local employers and the economy.

He added: “Fergal and the team at BSC bring a huge range of talent to this city and region, and their work continues to support innovation, research and training, especially in these challenging days.

“Our aim at NWRC is to continue this work by developing skills, fostering innovation and driving applied research, coupled with supporting the wider college community to ensure an industry relevant professional and technically skilled curriculum, all with the aim of growing the economy in Northern Ireland.”

Dr. Fergal Tuffy, Technology Innovation Manager at NWRC's Business Support Centre which won the Top UK Employer Engagement Award.
Dr. Fergal Tuffy, Technology Innovation Manager at NWRC’s Business Support Centre which has won the TES award for Best Employer Engagement.