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An Apprentice Mechanic working within the Transport Workshop of Derry City and Strabane District Council has secured second place in the NI Skills Challenge to secure a place in the UK heats of the competition in the summer.

North West Regional College student Andrew Blackburn from Co. Donegal was the runner up in the NI Skills Challenge that was held in the South West Regional College, (Omagh Campus) last month and will travel to the UK heats of the competition that will be held at the Henry Ford Academy in Daventry, Warwickshire in June.

Andrew fought off stiff competition from apprentices within both private and public sector organisations who were tested over a range of Motor Vehicle systems including Fault-Diagnosis, Engine Assembly and Electrical Systems.


Extending his congratulations to Andrew, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Maolíosa McHugh said he was delighted at his success and wished him well in the next stage of the competition.

A strong advocate of apprenticeship schemes, the Mayor said Andrew’s apprenticeship is a great example of what can be achieved from being involved in a varied and structured learning experience.

“Andrew has really shown the benefits of being part of an apprenticeship programme where he has gained the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in his chosen industry and has really hit the ground running thanks to the hands-on training he has received with the Council and the opportunities with the NWRC to be part of a balanced and well-structured learning programme,” he said.

Tina Gillespie, Skills Manager with Derry City and Strabane District Council congratulated Andrew on his success and highlighting the importance of apprenticeship schemes for young people in the Council area; “The Council is working very proactively with a number of education providers, private training organisations, careers service and companies to encourage people to avail of apprenticeship opportunities that exist across the Council area. The promotion of apprenticeships is a key element of the education and skills outcome set out in the Council’s Strategic Growth Plan, that encourages young people to look at vocational options for training in their chosen profession through on-the-job training, study, an industry-recognised qualification and earning a wage. We are delighted at Andrew’s success and hope that it will encourage more young people to look at the many apprenticeship opportunities that exist across many sectors, from engineering and law to construction and fashion design.

Fleet Manager with Derry City and Strabane District Council Bertie Magee said: “We are extremely proud of Andrew’s achievement and look forward to him representing Council at National level. We would also like to acknowledge the commitment of the Lecturers within the Motor Vehicle department of the North West Regional College which Andrew attends on a day-release basis.

Course Co-ordinator with the North West Regional College, Barry McDaid said: “Andrew has a balance of the attributes required to progress within the Motor Vehicle industry. His technical ability and enthusiasm to learn makes him an excellent ambassador for both Derry City and Strabane District Council and indeed the North West Regional College also.”

Andrew is now busy preparing for the UK heat and hopes to commend himself and indeed the organisations he represents in a similar fashion.

Anyone interested in finding out more about how to avail of an apprenticeship scheme is encouraged to contact Nicky Gilleece or Eileen McGrinder at Derry City and Strabane District Council on 028 71253 253.

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