Cross-Border educational agreement focuses on advanced manufacturing

More accessible training expected to help the ‘most marginalised’ young people towards better jobs

Two new cross-Border agreements signed between educational institutions in the northeast of the island will help equip young people from the region for careers in high-tech manufacturing and provide much-needed talent to industry, according to those behind the initiative.

Queen’s University Belfast and the Newry-based Southern Regional College (SRC) both confirmed agreements on Wednesday with the Louth-Meath Education and Training Board’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre of Excellence (AMTCE) to collaborate on a range of courses intended to bring young people into advanced manufacturing.

At the announcement in Dundalk, Northern Ireland’s Minister for the Economy, Deirdre Hargey, said the initiative represented the type of collaboration between industry, government and educational institutions that brought tangible benefits for all involved.

She said the provision of new types of more accessible education and training in advanced manufacturing technologies had the potential to have a particular impact on “those most marginalised” young people by enabling them to secure better jobs.

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The event was also attended by officials from the three institutions and representatives of bodies responsible for project-funding AMTCE such as Solas and InterTrade Ireland.

“The intention is to pool our resources to maximise what we can achieve in terms of education and training provision,” said Sadie Ward McDermott, director of further education and training at Louth-Meath Education and Training Board, of the initiatives announced.

The areas of the economy the courses and micro-learning programmes are focused towards, she suggested, account for almost one-third of Ireland’s gross domestic product. “What we are looking to do is funnel talent towards those companies and support them in practical ways as they try to innovate so as to remain competitive.

“Some of our existing programmes have worked with schools in the more deprived areas in this region and in Belfast, educating teachers who might have an existing interest in areas like construction or ICT. They give up their time to upskill and we provide supports to the school, 3D printers to help the students learn about manufacturing, innovation and design.

“We are trying to influence the decisions that will impact on their career pathways,” she said, “and we can see evidence in the choices being made by the students we worked with two years ago that it’s working; we are seeing a definite increase in the numbers choosing areas like engineering.

“What we are saying, though, is that you don’t have to have an engineering degree to work in these areas; there are different pathways open and we have developed a suite of bite-sized qualifications. These new memorandums of understanding with Queens and SRC are about continuing that work.”

AMTCE was established in 2021 with the support of Solas and Enterprise Ireland, with numbers increasing significantly in each of the years since. Last year, it provided courses to 2,800 people.

The college is one of a large number of higher and further education institutions placing a greater emphasis on flexible and micro-learning options for young people and those already in work.

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