From education to employment

NAW23: Orláigh is Setting Out for a Career in Civil Engineering

Orlaigh Rice

The installation of water treatment tanks on the family farm was all the inspiration needed to set a young woman on the path to an apprenticeship and a career in civil engineering.

Orláigh Rice (18) from Dromara is a Level 3 Civil Engineering Apprentice at SERC employed by Felix O’Hare & Co., building contractors in Newry. She said,

“I come from a farming background and from no age, I always knew that I wanted a job that was hands on. When I was about 15, we were having some water treatment tanks fitted at the family farm and I couldn’t get enough of what was going on. I tortured the guys about what they were doing, the equipment, and what they were putting where and why? They actually offered me a job!”

She continued, “My dad works at SERC, so I was familiar with the College, and after a bit of research into a range of courses, I knew the Civil Engineering Apprenticeship was the route for me. My mum was a bit hesitant at the start – I suppose because I was at Assumption Grammar School, it was just assumed I would continue with A levels and go on to university. However, I know this was the right pathway for me after my GCSEs. I secured employment with Felix O’Hare & Co. and I am out working every day and once a week I am at College. I am now in my second year and haven’t looked back. I plan to go on and do my Higher Level Apprenticeship.”

Orláigh said, “I love the mix of being in SERC one day a week and then out and about with work. Currently I am involved in a job at Queen’s University Belfast where I am taking levels and setting out for a new lecture theatre which requires marking out the floor for the seating to be installed. I have also been involved in setting out the levels for a road before tarmac is applied. Moving on to the next project I hope to assist and learn about setting out the structure for the building including foundations, walls, beams etc.”

“At work and College, I am learning all the time and building on my skills including CAD which I use as part of my everyday role. The classes are smaller, so I think you get to learn from what other apprentices are working on and there is one to one support if you need it from the lecturing team.”

“You are continually learning at work and as you get more skilled you get to take on a bit more responsibility. Earning whilst I learn was one of the incentives for taking the apprenticeship route. I am bringing home a wage each week and managing my own finances which includes keeping a car on the road.”

“My advice to anyone thinking of an apprenticeship is to do your research. Ask questions and do what is right for you. It’s not school, you are out working and will come home tired on a Friday afternoon, but it is worth it.”

SERC are hosting Have a Go Sessions for potential apprentices 4.30pm to 7.00pm at Lisburn Campus – Monday 6 February; Bangor Campus -Tuesday 7 February; Newtownards Campus – Wednesday 8 February, and Downpatrick Campus – Thursday 9 February.

Visit to unlock your future #BetterOffAtSERC.

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