From education to employment

Daughters Follow in Mum’s Footsteps to Study at Northern Regional College

When Holly Boyd from Coleraine decided to study Health and Social Care at Northern Regional College in Coleraine, she was following in the footsteps of her mother Lorraine and older sister Gemma.

All three completed a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care at the College, which paved the way for them to progress to university.

Lorraine and Gemma studied Social Work at Ulster University and they are both employed as social workers with the Northern Trust. Last year, Holly graduated with a BSc (Hons) degree in Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology from the University of Liverpool and is about to embark on a career as a Therapeutic Radiographer in Manchester. 

Holly and her mum Lorraine, who are alumni of Loreto College in Coleraine and Gemma who attended Dominican College, said they had a very positive experience at Northern Regional College.

Lorraine explained that she left school at 16 to work but regretted this decision.

“A levels just weren’t for me when I was younger but in my early ‘twenties, I decided to do a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care at Northern Regional College. When I completed the course in 1992, I was offered a place to study Social Work at Ulster University’s Magee campus.

“After I graduated, I got a social worker job with the Northern Regional Trust and have been there ever since in a variety of healthcare settings including hospital, rehabilitation and community care.”

Lorraine, who was the first in her family to go to university, said she would have no hesitation recommending Northern Regional College as an alternative pathway to university.

“A levels are often considered as the traditional and only progression route to university but I know from my own personal experience that there are other ways and I was delighted that both Gemma and Holly decided to study at Northern Regional College.  

After completing her BTEC Diploma, Gemma also went to Ulster University and graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Social Work in 2007. Following her graduation, Gemma was employed as a social worker by Woman’s Aid and, for the last ten years, she has been working with the Northern Trust where her current role is a Hospital Discharge Social Worker. 

Holly started doing A levels but felt this wasn’t the right pathway for her and left school to study at Northern Regional College. She said her decision was influenced by the positive experience that both her mum and sister had enjoyed at the College.

“I knew from talking to them that this is where I would get the best healthcare experience through a combination of academic work and work placements.”

She continued: “As I was interested in healthcare, I felt the BTEC Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care would suit me better than A levels. It meant I could still get the appropriate qualifications for university, but could focus on what I was really interested in.

“I also liked that the BTEC course offered placement opportunities which gave me a better understanding of each healthcare setting.”  Holly added that she enjoyed her hospital placement most and this was what sparked her initial interest in radiography.

Holly said Northern Regional College had prepared her academically for university and, now that she is a healthcare professional, she can see the benefit and importance of other skills developed during her time there.

“I was able to use these skills at university, both in everyday life as well as in my academic work and hospital placements and know that I’ll be able to apply these ‘softer’ skills, like time management, critical thinking, communication, problem solving, teamwork and ethics and confidentiality to my workplace.”

Holly added: “I would recommend the BTEC Extended Diploma in Health and Social care to anyone thinking about a future career in a Health and Social Care setting as it is a great way to gain vital skills and knowledge which focus exactly on what you are interested in. It also presents an opportunity to get vital experience before either going to university or getting a job in healthcare.

“The course is a great pathway to many diverse careers in healthcare. The College lecturers and careers team are most supportive and helpful and make sure that students will have the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to progress, whether this is to university or employment. I couldn’t recommend the course enough.”

Applications are now being accepted for courses at Northern Regional College starting in September 2024.  For further details visit here

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