From education to employment

Local lad Neil retrains at SERC

South Eastern Regional College’s Newcastle Campus has had a long history in providing access to further and higher education courses across Co Down, helping people to gain the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career.

Local people have shared their stories of how vocational education at the College has helped them get promoted, retrain in a new career, and get back into education to further their ambitions.

For anyone considering returning to education, 37-year-old aspiring social worker Neil McTeer from Newcastle, is a great example of the rewards that can be gained from going back to the books!

Having been away from education for nearly 15 years, Neil returned and successfully completed the Restart programme at SERC, and is now applying for courses at university. During his three years at the College, Neil also completed his GCSE English and Math’s, adult literacy and numeracy and essential skills ICT.

Neil explains: “Having worked in the construction sector since leaving school, I found myself unemployed during the recession in 2008. I knew that I needed something more than just another low paid temporary job but yet, I didn’t know what options were available to me.

“It wasn’t until a friend suggested getting some qualifications that I knew that’s what I needed to do. At first, I laughed at the idea, but I eventually enrolled onto an Essential Skills literacy and numeracy course at SERC’s Newcastle campus and discovered that learning when you are over twenty-five is very different and much more satisfying compared to school.

“I learnt that with the right encouragement and help, I was able to do things I never thought possible. Before long, I progressed to the Restart course which covered modules such as science, literacy, numeracy, study skills, assignment writing and time management.”

Neil said that although it was daunting coming back to education, everyone in the class helped each other.

Neil plans to progress to university in September to study social work and has applied to Queens University Belfast and Ulster University, something he never thought possible having worked all of his life as a labourer on a building site.

Commenting on the course Neil explains: “The Restart course was my way of getting the confidence I needed to continue learning.I enrolled onto the course to follow my ambition and it’s the best decision I ever made! I would definitely 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.”

Course lecturer Elaine Bradley said: “Our Restart Education programme allows learners to get a solid foundation of knowledge in a positive learning environment that is inviting and supportive. It has been designed for those who have been out of education more than one year. Learners will work towards a level 2 OCN qualification in further study skills covering Maths, literacy, science and social science alongside personal skill building, exploring career options and planning the next step in education.”

To find out how SERC can help you ‘get the edge’ call 0345 600 7555, visit or find us on Facebook, search: SERC. For more information, please visit SERC’s adult learner’s open day on 17 January from 11am-8pm at the College’s Newcastle campus on the Castlewellan road.

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