South West College has retained its position among the UK's top providers of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education, it was confirmed today.
The training and learning specialist, which operates across four campuses in Fermanagh and Tyrone, was the first Northern Ireland College to secure STEM Assured status from the STEM Foundation and is the first to retain the standard.
The accolade is awarded to organisations that demonstrate strategic STEM leadership and have demonstrated advanced capability to support business and industry needs linked to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. There are now 30 STEM Assured colleges in the UK.
Speaking at the college’s Omagh Campus, Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said:
“I congratulate South West College on renewing its STEM Assured status. This highly-sought award recognises the college’s ability to evolve curriculum towards the needs of employers and provide a compelling learning environment for students. As our economy continues to change, we are increasingly dependent on people with skills and qualifications in science, technology, engineering and maths.”
South West College’s dedicated STEM centre at Dungannon is the only one of its type in Northern Ireland and the college has won several international awards including two AoC Beacon Awards: the AQA Award for College/School Partnerships and the Create Award for College Engagement with Employers.
In the last academic year (2014-2015), enrolments in STEM related subjects at South West College was 10% greater than the Northern Ireland average and represented almost 40% of the college’s intake.
South West College Director, Malachy McAleer, said:
“Retaining our rating of STEM Assured is an important achievement for us. It represents validation of our approach and longstanding commitment to innovative and industry-related education. Being STEM Assured has made it easier to create new relationships with employers and build better a pipeline of talent for local industries. The award has also proven to be an important factor in helping us draw national and regional funding for projects over the past three years and Invest NI was involved in the assessment process.
“We’ve continually researched and developed our facilities and resources to ensure that they are industry-relevant and optimised to enhance our economic competitiveness. The STEM Foundation described our approach as being a benchmark for the UK and advised us to proceed to the next level of accreditation. We are proud to have our work recognised again among the very best colleges in the UK.”
Having renewed its STEM Assured status until 2019, the college said it would be continuing to review and strengthen its processes and will be aiming to secure Investor in Innovation Standard with the STEM Foundation in October. That Standard allows organisations to benchmark their innovation capability against six factors: strategy and alignment; organisational readiness; core capabilities and technologies; industry foresight; client awareness and impact and value.
‘STEM Assured’ is a UK-wide quality standard recognised by Government Departments and Agencies as well as employers.