From education to employment

Civil Engineering quartet receive Quest Scholarships.

Four Higher Level Civil Engineering Apprentice students from South West College (SWC) have been awarded the prestigious Institution of Civil Engineers  (ICE)  Quest Technician Scholarship. This award is a sign of excellence and is a recognition of the achievement and ambition of higher level technicians in the civil engineering industry.

The Scholarship is open to all eligible students across the Northern Ireland Region of the ICE. Applicants are required to complete a very comprehensive application form, focussing on academic achievement, industrial experience and most importantly career aspirations.  Based on the application form and a shortlisting process, applicants are then invited for interview by a panel of professionally qualified civil engineers. A condition of winning the scholarship is a commitment to assist the ICE in the promotion of the profession at career events and school visits across Northern Ireland.  The scholarship aims to acknowledge potential among apprentices on higher education courses, leading to becoming qualified ICE Technician Members (EngTech MICE).

The four SWC winners, Micheál MacSalaigh, Pauric Lafferty, Warren Stewart and Jake Reid, who completed the Foundation Degree in Civil Engineering as Higher Level Apprentices (HLAs) at the Omagh Campus were awarded a Scholarship of £1,000, in recognition of their outstanding achievements.

Micheál, employed by Fox Contracts, hails from Omagh and started as a Level 3 BTEC student before progressing to the Ulster University Foundation Degree in Civil Engineering – HLA at the College. “I attended the Christian Brothers School up to GCSE level, before leaving at 16 to complete a BTEC National Extended Diploma in Construction at SWC. Whilst I had the offer and opportunity to go to university I opted for the “earn and learn” route as a Higher Level Apprentice with the support of my employer. Last Summer I got the opportunity to travel to Pennsylvania, USA to study High Performance Building Design at Penn State University. The trip was fully funded and an incredible learning experience. Being awarded the ICE Quest scholarship has been a major boost to my self-confidence and further convinced me that I have made the right career choice to pursue an apprenticeship with Fox Contracts and SWC. I intend to complete an Honours Top-Up Degree in Civil Engineering on my pathway to becoming a Chartered Civil Engineer.”

Pauric from Castlefinn, is employed as a site engineer at Fox Contracts and hopes to progress his education at Queens University Belfast.

Recounting his educational journey so far Pauric said:

“I received an unconditional offer for full time studies at university but decided to turn it down as SWC was a much more lucrative option for me at that time.

Each lecture was different and offered a chance to learn new skills that I could apply in my work place. Learning the functions of AutoCAD and other very important features of software afforded me the opportunity to progress these skills with Fox Contracts.

I would recommend SWC to anyone looking to get a head start in their career. The opportunities given to me by the College to link with the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Structural Engineers and the Institute of Highway Engineers allowed me to become student members, resulting in the award of this Scholarship by the ICE.”

Similarly, Jake Reid from Seskinore, is currently employed at MetStructures in Fintona. He completed his A levels at Omagh Academy before furthering his education by completing the Foundation Degree at the Omagh Campus. Opting to stay local for his higher education studies has proven to be a wise decision for Jake, as he was able to continue playing rugby for Omagh Academicals and has gained valuable hands-on industrial experience.

Looking towards the future, Jake has his sights set on progressing to either university or the Open University Course at the College. Jake is also working towards completing his Eng Tech with the ICE, which serves as the initial step towards achieving his goal of becoming a Chartered Engineer.

Reflecting on the benefits of the scholarship he received, Jake expressed his gratitude, and said:

“I believe this scholarship will greatly enhance my CV and demonstrate to the industry my dedication to a career in Civil Engineering and my ambition to become a Chartered Civil Engineer. None of this would be possible without the incredible support of the folks at MetStructures and SWC.”

Warren from Castlederg remains with Lowry Building and Civil Engineering and is undecided about his next career move. “After my A-Levels at Omagh Academy I wasn’t sure about university with my commitments at home and the rugby with my local club. I then got talking to my school friend Jake and we decided on the Higher Level Apprenticeship at SWC, something which I have never regretted. Then winning this scholarship was the icing on the cake. I am now working for my first professional qualification of EngTech MICE.”

Dr. Danielle McKelvey, Curriculum Manager for Sustainability Construction and Transport at SWC said:

“Being awarded this scholarship is a major personal achievement and milestone for each of the students and means they will be recognised for their abilities and potential, enhancing their CVs, as well as reducing the financial burden of studying to degree level.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the invaluable contribution made by our industrial partners to the delivery of civil engineering at SWC, through the provision of employment for HLAs, placements for full time students and membership of our Industrial Advisory Board (IAB). The Members of the IAB give off their time on a voluntary basis to provide critical and meaningful support for the delivery and development of the civil engineering curriculum.”     

 To find out more or to apply for a civil engineering course, or higher-level apprenticeship programme, as well as scholarship opportunities at SWC, please visit our website at 

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