From education to employment

Hard work pays off for midwife Sián

Sián Mulholland, registered midwife at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

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 Festival of Learning, previously known as Adult Learners Week, takes place from 18-21 June and is a celebration of lifelong learning which aims to show that you’re never too old to learn something new.

Local adults have shared their stories of how vocational 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 career change, 31-year-old Sián Mulholland from Bangor is a great inspiration.  

Sián has proved that with hard work and commitment you can fulfil your dreams.

Sián is a former pupil of Strangford College and Regent House School. After her A levels Sián went on to study a fine and applied art degree at university where she explored women’s mental and physical health issues. A few years after graduating she decided to retrain to become a midwife

In the first step of this ambition, Sián attended an open day at SERC, spoke to the tutors and enrolled onto a fast track Access Certificate in Foundation Studies course to pursue her dream of becoming a midwife.

On completion of the full-time Access course, Sián applied to university and received a place to study a three-year midwifery degree course at Queens University Belfast.

She graduated with honours in Midwifery Science in December 2017 and is now a registered midwife at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, a role she is finding very rewarding and is thoroughly enjoying. Creating artwork helps her to relax and balance the stress of a busy shift in the labour ward.

During her degree, Sián won the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust Student award which enabled her to travel to Ontario, Canada on an elective placement to find out more about ethical and societal issues involved with global health. Spurred on to continue her professional development, Sián is now a qualified hypnobirthing teacher and most recently has completed training to use aromatherapy in maternity care.

Sián said “The fast track Access course suited me as it meant that I could fit my studies in around my family and working life. The course was my way of getting the qualifications I needed to study midwifery at university. I enrolled onto the course to follow my ambition and it’s the best decision I ever made! I would recommend the course to anyone considering returning to education. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get this far, but it’s definitely been worth it.”

SERC Principal and Chief Executive Mr. Ken Webb explains why SERC are supporting this special day:

“Adult Learners Week is the perfect way to celebrate the many paths to success open to learners of all ages, and we hope it will inspire others to enrol onto a vocational course either for a hobby, career change or to up-skill. Vocational education and training plays a vital role in preparing people for the work environment through hands-on learning, offering local employers with appropriately skilled and trained people.”

Course lecturer Elaine Bradley said: “The Access course is aimed at giving adults, particularly those that left school early in life or those that have been away from full-time education for two years, the opportunity to return and progress to university. Accredited by Queen’s, the certificate provides a good grounding in the knowledge and study skills needed to succeed in higher education. It is equivalent to A levels but is designed and delivered with adult returners in mind.”

For more information, please visit SERC’s part-time open day on 6 June from 4pm-8pm at the College’s Bangor, Downpatrick, Lisburn and Newtownards campuses.

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