From education to employment

Construction Students Get Sneak Peek of NRC’s New Campus in Ballymena

Construction Students Get Sneak Peek of NRC's New Campus in Ballymena

Young construction students got a sneak preview of Northern Regional College’s new campus in Ballymena as part of a construction activity day hosted by the College.

The construction activity day, attended by BTEC Level 3 Construction students at the College, as well as pupils studying GCSE Construction at Cullybackey College, was designed to highlight the different routes into a rewarding and challenging career in the construction sector. 

The College offers several full-time and part-time options for studying construction related subjects. These include: Level 4 HNC Modern Methods of Construction; Higher Level Apprenticeships in Construction Engineering and Modern Methods of Construction; and a Foundation Degree in Construction Engineering with Surveying.

The College also offers a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment, a vocational full-time course, the equivalent of 3 A levels. However, if a young person would prefer to stay on at school and progress to sixth form, through the Ballymena Learning Partnership – which offers pupils at local post-primary schools the opportunity to follow a wider curriculum – they can opt to do a BTEC Level 3 Extended Certificate, the equivalent of 1 A level at Northern Regional College. 

Northern Regional College is currently developing new campuses in both Ballymena and Coleraine, as part of a £85 million capital investment package which is fully funded by the Department for the Economy.  

The new Ballymena campus, which is on schedule for completion by September 2025, will consolidate the College’s service delivery from its three current buildings to one state-of-the-art development at Farm Lodge. Work on the Coleraine campus at Union Street is at an advanced stage and will be fully operational by September 2024.

In addition to the site visit, the construction activity day included talk by Paul Crowe of Todd Architects, who gave a presentation on the architecture and construction work the company carries out in Northern Ireland as well as further afield. Now managing director of one of the UK and Ireland’s leading architectural consultancies, he told the students that after A levels, his own career journey had started with a HNC in Construction through the then University of Ulster.

The event was organised Cherith Simpson, Construction lecturer at the College. Prior to joining the College’s lecturing staff, Cherith worked as an Architectural Technologist with Park Design Associates in Ballymena.

She explained why her previous industrial experience is relevant to her current role as a lecturer.

“All our lecturers have practical experience of the skills the construction students will need if they are to progress in the sector. Nothing can compare to having ‘hands-on’ experience when passing on knowledge to the next generation of construction professionals.

“Not only can we explain the construction concepts, but we can point to some of the buildings that we worked on, explain the evolution of different projects and discuss any constraints or issues they faced. “

Cherith added that like her colleagues, she has an in-depth knowledge of planning laws, materials and construction techniques best suited to the local area, as well as a wealth of contacts in the construction sector, which is very useful for organising site visits, speakers and placements.

She continued: “Our software and surveying equipment includes the latest technologies such a 3D laser scanner and, because we are familiar with current trends in the construction sector, we know what employers are looking for. This means we can plan ahead to deliver the best combination of relevant modules, to give our students a head start when they enter the job market.

The construction activity day was designed to showcase opportunities in the sector and to emphasise how studying a vocational specific course such as construction, will offer a direct pathway to a professional career.

Cherith said she received very positive feedback from the students: “They found it both interesting and informative and they enjoyed taking part in the activity we set, which was to build a bridge using cocktail sticks and sweets so that had to think creatively to come up with the best option.”

For further information on construction courses available at Northern Regional College, visit

Related Articles