From education to employment

Studying Creative Media at NRC Can Be Stepping Stone to Success

Man graduating

Studying creative media at Northern Regional College gave a young Belfast woman the necessary skills and experience to secure her first industry job.

Last month Holly Strutt was among the thousands of young people across Northern Ireland to receive A level and BTEC results. With a triple Distinction* in her BTEC Level 3 Digital Games Development, which is a vocational course equivalent of three A*s at A level, she landed a job, funded by NI Screen as Trainee Production Co-ordinator at Humain – Digital Humans. 

Humain create digital humans for leading entertainment and technology companies by combining anatomy with animation, coding and art to create accurate face and body rigs that result in realistic face and body rigs for the creative media industry.

Holly outlined what her role at Humain involves:

“I work closely with the Production Manager to support the Production Team and the R&D Team. My responsibilities involve efficiently scheduling and co-ordinating the delivery of high-quality 3D character assets to our growing list of AAA video game developers.

After GCSEs, Holly realised that sixth form and high school were not for her.

She explained:

“As it turned out, the decision to study Digital Games Development at Northern Regional College’s Newtownabbey campus was the best one I could have made, both for my education and mental health.”  

Although Holly had no previous experience in either game design or development, her abiding interest in video games prompted her to take a leap of faith in her own ability to succeed.

“Northern Regional College and my remarkable lecturers shaped my journey into the world of digital game development. I couldn’t have wished for a better team to teach me the fundamentals of game development.

She added:

“The diversity of skill levels among my peers was such an enriching experience. While some of my classmates were already comfortable in Unity, C#, Blender, and Maya, others were newcomers like me but collaborative problem-solving was a significant part of our enjoyable learning environment, which was incredibly relaxed and comfortable.”

During her two years at the College, Holly completed a valuable 10 week work placement with Whitenoise Studios in Belfast. She said the experience gained at Whitenoise helped secure her first job in the creative media sector.  

 “The learning curve to secure my first industry job has been exhilarating and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn from Maeve Woods and Greg Maguire who have been incredible. They have supported and encouraged me to succeed and as I work towards achieving my full potential.”

Holly outlined some of the skills acquired and experiences she enjoyed as a student at Northern Regional College: “At Northern Regional College, I developed skills such as Maya, Unity, and C#, and even became an Adobe Certified Professional in Visual Design (Photoshop and Illustrator).

“I learned Blender from scratch, built a website, participated in the 2022 Student Game Jam with Pixel Mill, received feedback from Team Terrible’s founder Greg Lee, created a VR game in a class game jam, joined the Global Game Jam 2023 with Paris Mutter. I did my internship at Whitenoise Studios while working on my final project, ‘Powderkeg Paws’ and also completed an second internship with a AAA recognised company.” 

After finishing her BTEC course, like many other students, Holly faced a dilemma about whether to go directly to university or to take a gap year. She opted for the latter and said if she does decide to go to university at a later date, the experience gained working with Humain will really stand to her.

“I deferred my university offer for a year and plan to use the year as an opportunity for personal growth, learning, and development. I want to pursue a degree someday but haven’t decided yet whether that will be as a full-time student or doing it as a part-time student while I continue to work. I’m open to all possibilities.”

The creative industries sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Screen recently announced an innovative partnership with NextGen Skills Academy, aimed at bolstering Games, Animation, and Visual Effects expertise in three Northern Ireland Further Education colleges.

The two-year pilot programme will facilitate direct industry engagement from a range of international and local creative studios, improving students’ employability prospects.

Notable partners in this venture include Industrial Light & Magic, renowned for their visual effects work in franchises such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, as well as Creative Assembly, the creative force behind international gaming franchises like Total War, and Blue Zoo, the animation studio responsible for family favourites such as Numberblocks and The Adventures of Paddington.

Northern Regional College, Belfast Met and Southern Regional College have all introduced new creative media courses in conjunction with NextGen Skills Academy.

Each college will deliver a Level 3 vocational course aimed at school leavers who have a passion for games, animation and visual effects (VFX). Prospective applicants can access the course information via each college’s website.

The initiative, which highlights how FE colleges are responding to changing employer needs by ensuring people have the necessary skills for today’s rapidly changing business environment, will enable students to work on live industry projects, receive feedback from employers, and sharpen their skills to professional standards.

A number of new Level 2 creative media courses are also being offered this year at Northern Regional College, and it’s not too late to apply for September. To apply and for further information on all full-time and part-time courses at the College visit

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