First degree level apprenticeship in manufacturing and engineering launched at Magee

Pictured at Friday's launch (L-R): James Donaghy, student apprentice; Darragh Cullen, chair of MEGA; Sean Monan, student apprentice; Michelle O’Neill, Deputy First Minister; Prof Brian Meenan, Ulster University.

THE north’s first degree level apprenticeship in manufacturing and engineering has been launched in Derry.

The result of a partnership between Ulster University and the mid Ulster based MEGA (Manufacturing & Engineering Growth & Advancement) group, the course is designed to help create a pipeline of skilled talent fit for industry’s needs now and into the future.

Funded by the Department for the Economy, the programme presents an alternative to the traditional degree route, with apprentices employed from day one.

It means participants incur no cost in their higher level education, and instead, earn a salary.

‘Industry 4.0’ skills such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and digitalization, will be among the key themes studied within the new programme offered by the School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems at Magee.

Maria Curran, project director at MEGA said: “Our industry network is immensely?proud to have been central in the development of this new apprenticeship with Ulster University that is essential?in securing our sectors’ success for the good of Northern Ireland's economy. “Without it, the sector will be unable to compete globally and jobs will be lost in the future when manufacturing is relocated elsewhere.

“Thanks to essential funding support from the Department of Economy, this programme is a chance for industry to embrace the future of manufacturing and engineering and we encourage companies from across Northern Ireland to apply to be part of this momentous?step forward in adapting to the digital era.”

Applications have just opened for the 2022/23 course this week and will close on January 31 2022.?

The program was launched on Friday by Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill.

She described the MEGA apprenticeship degree as ground-breaking and potentially transformative for the manufacturing and engineering industry here.

“We are already a global player in these sectors and this programme will no doubt help to cement our place as a world leader,” she said.

“I’m particularly pleased at the regional benefits that this programme will deliver in Mid-Ulster and the north west. And I believe that this pioneering model will be a game-changer in providing access to no-cost higher level education.”

Course participant Conor Brattin is a robotics apprentice at Nugent Engineering in Co Tyrone.

“Working at Nugent Engineering in Dungannon, I’ve started to learn about building robot cells and automation and it is really interesting. I’m looking forward to what the future holds and to studying at the School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems at Magee.”

Another student, Sarah Millar from Ballygawley and a former student of St Ciaran’s College, Ballygawley said: “With the MEGA degree apprenticeship, I see this as a fantastic opportunity to invest in my future.

“I will be studying robotics and automation at Ulster University. These areas are a big focus in the years ahead in this region and globally so it is great to specialise in this right from the start of my career.

“I’m excited to get a chance to be involved in innovation with MEGA, Ulster University and the industry leaders who are investing in young people like me. I’m excited for what the future holds.”

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