OCN NI sees vocational awards soar in 2020

Martin Flynn, chief executive of OCN NI

OPEN College network NI has reported a 26 per cent increase in the number of vocational awards it has issued so far this year.

Despite the impact of Covid-19, more people than ever are interested and engaged in vocational learning, leading to a marked increase at OCN NI in the number of qualification certificates they have issued compared to last academic year.

Now officially the second largest vocational awarding body in the north, OCN NI ( has developed an additional 39 new qualifications this year which are specially designed for training providers and learners in NI.

The courses cover a wide spectrum of subjects such as Level 2 Awards in cyber security, digital construction skills and awareness of mental health and well-being as well as a Level 4 Award in social media and digital marketing.

OCN qualifications are delivered throughout the north's six further education colleges, schools, community/voluntary and employment and training organisations.

Martin Flynn, chief executive of OCN NI, said: “We are delighted that despite the impact which Covid has had across all aspects of life this year, we have seen an increase in the number of vocational certificates we have issued.

“Many young people choose vocational education, and we feel it is important to acknowledge the huge number of people around NI who achieve great things through this career path.

“We've noticed a general rise in interest in vocational courses, demonstrating that the traditional route of A-Levels and university isn't necessarily right for everyone and also that even during a pandemic, people's general appetite for learning and success has not declined.

“In fact, maybe it has made some people stop and take stock of their current situation and decide that there's never been a better time to learn a new skill or earn a new qualification, which could enhance their employment prospects,” said Martin.

He added: “Research shows that young people leaving full time education today are likely to have 50 year careers, increasing the need to retrain and unlike previous generations they are less likely to have a ‘job for life' so may change career paths multiple times.

“OCN NI has recently commissioned a major research project to look into this area and we should be in a position to publish the results of our findings in January 2021.

“We look forward to working with and supporting our education and training providers and learners, in 2021.”

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