From education to employment

Aspiring accountant Kathleen discovers her talent at SERC and urges others to consider vocational education as a first choice

Vocational training has had a long history in the education system in Northern Ireland, helping individuals to gain the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career. The first ever European Vocational Skills Week from 5-9 December 2016 celebrates the value of vocational education.

Local people have shared their stories of how vocational education has helped them get promoted, retrain in a new career, and get back into education to further their ambitions. For anyone considering a career in financial services, aspiring chartered accountant Kathleen Jackson is a great example of the rewards that can be gained from vocational education and training!

Kathleen is in the final year of her higher level accounting apprenticeship at South Eastern Regional College (SERC) and has already been offered full-time employment with her employer Whitemountain Quarries Ltd where she works as an accounting apprentice.

The former Strathearn School pupil, had plans to progress to university after completing her A levels, but soon realised that it wouldn’t have been for her. It wasn’t until she saw an advert promoting the accounting apprentice at SERC that Kathleen realised it was what she wanted to do as a career. So she made an appointment to speak to the tutor Sandra Roleston and decided to enrol.

The 20-year-old from Comber said: “My family were all proud of my career choice. My parents were apprehensive about me not progressing to university and instead going to SERC but were always very encouraging and convinced me to enrol. Now they understand the benefits of vocational education and seen how well I have done they are happy I followed my ambition. I think they are also delighted that I don’t have a massive student loan.”

Kathleen has worked in the industry for about two years as an apprentice, working four days with her employer and one day at college. Once she completes her course, Kathleen plans to progress to complete her professional chartered accounting exams – a global hallmark to help secure jobs.

Kathleen said young people should not be put off by pursuing vocational education and encouraged them to embrace the opportunity to push the boundaries.

Kathleen encouraged other school leavers to follow their dreams. She says “If you are interested in accounting, give the apprenticeship a go. If you like it just go for it. Visit the college open day, speak to the tutors and tour the workshops. It was the best decision I ever made.”

Kathleen explained: “I now have a job, no debt and the skills and knowledge I need to excel within the sector. It’s the best decision I ever made. I would encourage others to consider SERC as a first option.”

SERC have been running HLA accounting for two years at their Lisburn Campus.

SERC provides a range of full and part-time courses designed to give students ‘the edge’. To find out how SERC can help you ‘get the edge’ call 0345 600 7555, visit or find us on Facebook, search: SERC.

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