From education to employment

Fiona nails it with part-time study at @S_ERC

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.

Local people have shared their stories of how part-time education at South Eastern Regional College (SERC) has helped them get promoted, retrain in a new career, and get back into education to further their ambitions. For anyone considering a course in carpentry, 40-year-old mother of three Fiona Doherty is a great inspiration.  

Having been out of education for 17 years Ballinderry woman Fiona decided to enrol onto a part-time introduction to woodwork course at the colleges Lisburn Campus.

Initially Fiona said she was worried about going back to education as she has young children aged 5, 8 and 11 and was worried about balancing family life. She said “I always had an interest in woodwork and made toys and picture frames, so I decided to sign-up to an evening class. When I researched the course online, I realised that it was only a few hours a week, was close to home and only lasted 16 weeks so I decided to apply. I assumed that I would be the only female on the course and that I would be one of the but that wasn’t the case, there were three females in the class and I was one of the youngest.

“My advice to anyone considering a part-time course at SERC is to just go for it. The workshops and tutors are fantastic, and everyone is friendly. I have made a few good friends on the course too and I look forward to it every week, it’s a good laugh. When I tell people what course I am doing they are very surprised, but I love it.”

Fiona’s profession is IT and has a degree in maths and physics and a master’s in Engineering Computation, so SERC was a very different educational experience for her. She said “I have never attended college, so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was very impressed when I saw the workshops and the modern campus. It’s a very comfortable and relaxed place to study and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

“I am a big believer in lifelong learning and thanks to the course I have honed a range of carpentry and joinery skills and have more confidence in using hand and power tools. Throughout the course we were encouraged to design and work on projects of our choice and since starting the course I have made a dolls house for my niece and a Harry Potter wand and stand and a bespoke bath caddy for reading books while bathing. My friends were shocked about my course choice, but my husband was very encouraging and convinced me to give it a go.”

SERC carpentry and joinery training support officer Seamus Branniff had 3 females on the programme. He explains “Fiona has been a stand-out student since she started. She has a natural talent for carpentry and shows great dedication and enthusiasm to improving her skills. She has an eye for the finer details and is very organised. We welcome female enrolments on our construction courses and would encourage more females to enrol.”

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