Further education colleges ‘STEM’ the skills shortage

STEM qualifications can be a passport to international career opportunities.


From a careers perspective, science and technology based companies form the backbone of Northern Ireland’s exports, contributing in excess of £4.5 billion per annum. Importantly for students making career choices, the growth of businesses based around STEM skills is a priority for government and the demand for people with such skills continues to grow accordingly.

The recently published skills barometer report showed that the largest supply gaps are forecast within STEM related subject areas. From healthcare to engineering; creative media to applied sciences; music technology to the built environment – the STEM offering within the six regional further education (FE) colleges covers a diverse range of courses to suit students at all levels.

Importantly, a STEM qualification can be a passport to international career opportunities. Sinead O’Sullivan, a former student from Southern Regional College (SRC) won a competition during her FE studies to undertake a two week placement at the United Space School near NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, USA. Following this Sinead has worked as a NASA research scientist and is currently involved with the Foundation for International Space Education (FISE) where she mentors and lectures at the United Space School. Sinead now runs her own company, AviOptX.

The diversity of STEM expertise in the FE sector is showcased in the BEST Awards. The Awards are run annually by Colleges NI and involves over 200 students competing. The 2015 BEST Awards Winner – Curtis Adams from Belfast Met, won with his innovative ‘Bike-First Traffic Light’ for cyclists. Continuing on the international theme, Curtis was then selected to attend the two-week Frontiers programme run by Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts, USA in summer 2015 as part of this competition.

The 2016 BEST Awards takes place on Thursday 26th May in the Foyle Arena, Derry/Londonderry. The event is free to attend and is suitable for a wide audience – from school pupils to parents, businesses, stakeholders and government.


For more details on this year’s

BEST Awards visit the Colleges NI website www.collegesni.ac.uk.


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