High-flying teenagers across Northern Ireland take trip to Queen’s for special graduation ceremony

Seventy-eight high-flying students across Northern Ireland headed to The Queens University of Belfast on 25 May to celebrate their graduation from the Career Ready programme. 
The special ceremony, sponsored by employers McAuley Engineering, Reserve Forces and Cadets Association and Sensata Technologies Ltd, marked the end of Career Ready’s exciting 18 month employability programme, designed to prepare 16-19 year olds for the world of work. As well as enjoying six weeks’ paid work experience in an industry of their choice, the students also benefited from team building, one-to-one mentoring, site visits and special master classes.

Those attending the event included Career Ready students from Belfast Metropolitan College, North West Regional College, Northern Regional College, South West Regional College and South East Regional College, along with sponsors and other employers including Caterpillar, Emergency Fire and Safety, Creative Composites, Citibank, Santander, Danske, Quad X, Fintru, Allstate, Kainos, Seagate, and BDNA.

The entire graduation ceremony was presented by Career Ready students, who gave their personal stories about the impact of the programme on their lives. They welcomed local singer, Cora Kelly, to the stage before presenting fellow graduates certificates and a range of awards for outstanding achievements in the Northern Ireland region. Award winners of the night included:

  • Sir Winfried Bischoff Award for Northern Ireland Student of the Year 2017:  Lucy Drummond, Belfast Metropolitan College.
  • Northern Ireland and UK Employability Champion of the Year: Heather Houston, Belfast Metropolitan College.
  • Mentor of the Year:  Danielle Killen, Seagate Technology.
  • Volunteer of the Year: Nicola Kiely, Santander.

Lucy Drummond from Belfast Metropolitan College, who scooped the Sir Winfried Bischoff Student of the Year Award said:  “The Career Ready programme built my confidence to such an extent that I want to challenge myself to do even more career enhancing things. The best bit of the programme for me was my mentor, Phil Wilkinson from BDNA, who I could trust and turn to. This was very important to me as I have dyslexia which can sometimes be very difficult to go through on your own.  Phil introduced me to different people within the business sector and in particular those working in marketing as I hope to go to university to do a degree in this. He continually encourages me and reminds me about the skills I have.”

Tony Madden, Career Ready’s Regional Manager for Northern Ireland, said: “Our graduation ceremony marks the end of a really exciting 18 months for our Career Ready students. As always, I’m hugely impressed by their commitment to the Career Ready programme, which – because of the work they put in – really gives them the edge when it comes to finding work. It’s great to join them all as they celebrate their achievements.”

Now in its eighth year in Northern Ireland, the Career Ready programme is going from strength to strength. This academic year it opened its doors to schools as well as colleges, and welcomed 12 young people from St Marks School in Warrenpoint. More than 100 students are expected to complete the programme in 2018, while plans to expand to an additional number of schools in Northern Ireland, particularly in the Belfast area, are now in place.