From education to employment

Build a Pathway to a Successful Construction Career at Northern Regional College

The decision to study construction at Northern Regional College has worked out well for young Coleraine man, Jack Neill.

Jack completed both a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Construction and Foundation Degree in Construction at Northern Regional College. He is currently employed as a second year Higher Level Construction Apprentice with Heron Bros, the main contractor for the College’s new landmark campus in Coleraine. 

With 6 GCSEs under this belt and an interest in working in the construction industry, Jack was keen to stay in education but admitted that he was never a fan of exams.   

“When I was at school, I always did better at coursework, so I felt A-Levels were not for me. I went to an Open Night at Northern Regional College to check out what my options there would be.”

He said the decision to study construction at Northern Regional College was the right one for him:

“I was interested in the construction sector so, when I realised that the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment at the College consisted mostly of coursework, I enrolled there and then and haven’t looked back since.

“The decision to enrol on the Extended Diploma was definitely the right one n for me, and I would have no hesitation recommending it to anyone interested in a career in the construction sector.

The BTEC Extended Diploma is an academic equivalent of three A levels and is well recognised by employers. It can also be an alternative pathway to university and is particularly suitable for students who prefer coursework to exams.

Jack added that he found the College’s informal learning environment much more conducive to learning that being at school.

“Another bonus is that the College lecturers have great contacts with employers, so they are able secure placement opportunities for students to help them get on the right career path.”

While he was doing the two year Level 3 Extended Diploma, Jack also achieved a City and Guilds Level 2 Award in 2D Computer Aided Design. Successful completion of the Level 3 Diploma was his progression route to the Ulster University validated Foundation Degree in Construction Engineering with Surveying, which he completed at the College in May 2023.

In September, Jack plans to start a one year ‘top-up’ degree in Construction Engineering and Management at South West College, a course validated by the Open University.  He will spend four days each week on site with Heron Bros and one day in college to complete his degree.

As a Higher Level Apprentice site engineer with Heron Bros, Jack liaises with the project manager, site manager, senior engineer and sub-contractors so has plenty of opportunities to put the theory being taught in College into practice.

He explained what his interesting and multi-faceted role involves:

“My role includes setting out, levelling and surveying the site, checking plans and drawings to make sure the work commencing on site corresponds with the technical drawings provided by the architects.

“I am also involved in a variety of duties concerning the daily management of the site, such as monitoring the labourers and the work of sub-contractors, as well as attending meetings with clients or surveyors/architects and dealing with any queries or potential problems that may arise.”

Jack said he has benefited enormously from studying at Northern Regional College:

“For anyone interested in the construction industry, Northern Regional College is the place to go. You’ll get a solid foundation in the industry and an understanding of what the different jobs in the sector involve.

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