Southern Regional College (SRC) has been named the top-performing further education college in the UK finals of the WorldSkills competition.
The competition gives vocational students the chance to showcase their abilities on the national and global stage.
It saw more than 1,000 young people participate in 62 skills competitions, held over 12 weeks in 15 countries.
And today (Tuesday), the Department for the Economy held a reception in Parliament Buildings, Belfast, to congratulate the students who competed.
Five young peope from across Northern Ireland competed as part of Team UK in the global WorldSkills competition – among them Killylea student Aaron Gillespie from Southern Regional College who took part in the wall and floor tiling section.
Meanwhile, 63 learners from across Northern Ireland took part in the UK finals, securing Northern Ireland’s best ever result.
Speaking after the reception, Heather Cousins, DfE’s head of skills and education, said: “It is hugely pleasing to see that, once again, local vocational skills learners are competing, and succeeding, on the national and international stages.
“Northern Ireland participants made up one in seven of the UK team that competed in the global WorldSkills Special Edition event, proportionally more than any other UK region. The team placed 10th in the world, a highly creditable effort.
“And from the UK competition our local students brought home 10 gold, 10 silver and eight bronze medals, as well as five highly commended awards, putting Northern Ireland second place in the UK, our best ever outcome.”
Ms Cousins continued: “I am also especially encouraged that Southern Regional College finished as the top-performing UK FE college – quite the honour in a very strong field and a further endorsement of our local FE sector.
“I congratulate all Northern Ireland participants on their tremendous efforts. I also pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of teaching staff in the colleges and private training providers. This success in what are very high quality competitions highlights the quality of the vocational skills teaching offering that is available to local learners, right across Northern Ireland.”
Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, CEO of WorldSkills UK, also attended the reception. He said: “This performance gives us a fantastic platform to work with our partners across Northern Ireland to maintain the focus on world-class skills development.
“We will use the international benchmarking insights gained from our global network in WorldSkills to help raise standards in higher technical education and apprenticeships, so that more investors and employers know that young people in Northern Ireland have got they skills they need to succeed.”