Date: 03 Jul 2023
Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Ryan Murphy was delighted to help Springvale announce the 2023 Learner Awards at St Comgall’s, west Belfast, today.
The Lord Mayor said: “Springvale has played an important role in the greater west Belfast area for over 30 years. And today, it’s not only the students who are continuing to benefit from their high-quality vocational courses and apprenticeships services – it’s the wider business community too.
“I’d like to pay tribute to these remarkable students’ successes – thanks in no small part to the committed Springvale staff working hard over the last 12 months to develop their students’ skills, capabilities and employability opportunities through the Skills for Life and Work Vocational Programme and the Apprenticeships Programme. They’ve taken the time to get to know their students and understand both their individual abilities and challenges – and this team effort has been richly rewarded.
“We’ve set out through our community plan, The Belfast Agenda, to ensure that everyone in Belfast can fulfil their potential. We want to achieve inclusive growth by helping to tackle educational inequalities and addressing economic inactivity, unemployment and underemployment – by delivering more and better jobs; offering in-work progression and removing challenging barriers to employment such as childcare, transport and training. It’s about improving life chances, and it’s something that no one organisation or sector can deliver alone; we must do it together. So, I thank and pay tribute to Springvale for continuing to play a key role in delivering on that ambition.”
Rising Stars and Learners of the Year from both the Skills for Life and Work Programme and the Apprenticeships NI Programme were celebrated by an invited audience of students from a range of vocational areas, their families, local community and business partners, funders, and staff.
Guest speaker, Gary Quinn, founder of restaurant and Taquitos shared his inspirational story, saying: "I have a bit of an affiliation with west Belfast. I left school early without exams and started a cookery course at Springvale as a teenager, which gave me my first taste of cooking and inspired me to make it my career. I also grew up playing football for Newhill Football Club, in the west of the city. It was these links and customer base, that brought me to open the new restaurant on the Andersonstown Road. I started off as just a food truck in 2018 at the Big Fish by the River Lagan, and now have my first restaurant at the age of 32.”
Marcus Benkirane, Director of Operations said: “We are so proud of our students’ amazing achievements, both past and present. And of the work our tutors continue to do with both students and local employers. Our campus continues to grow and develop with the opening of a state-of-the-art ICT Community Hub which allows the local community to benefit from our ICT resources during these economically challenging times.
“We’ve invested £25,000 in an ICT facility at our Springfield Road complex which offers a fully equipped training room for use by our Digital Media and Computer Technology students and the public. We’re also in the final stages of establishing the Springvale Bursaries Fund which will give our students a head start as they progress from Springvale into the next stage of education or employment.”
Springvale has also recently been awarded UK Shared Prosperity funding to continue the work of their youth employment team. Jordan Barr, Youth Employment Programme Manager, said: “Over the next two years, our new YouthStart programme will work with 500 economically inactive young people, across Belfast’s 12 most economically disadvantaged wards. Our staff will provide support and training to develop their skills and help them progress into employment. In addition to this, our team has secured CIT funding for a further 12 months to work with young people across west Belfast to develop their employability skills.”
Springvale prides themselves on the additional support they provide for their learners, through their Student Welfare Officer and Disability Support team, ensuring that students receive the assistance they need on every step of their learning journey.
Springvale continues to work with a wide range of employers across Northern Ireland in the delivery of their Apprenticeship NI programme and Skills for Life and Work programme through work placements. Strong relationships with employers are a critical aspect of the students’ learning process, so significant time and effort is invested to establish and maintain strong partnerships. The skills and knowledge gained by students through work-based learning helps them to achieve and progress in their professional and technical areas.
Marcus Benkirane added: “We set high expectations for our students and put in place everything they need to bring about success and positive outcomes. Excellence and quality are the key drivers behind our ambition for each student. It is the effort, focus and determination of our staff and students which brings us together today. On behalf of the Board, Management Team and all the staff of Springvale, I would like to thank all our funders and employers who have supported our programmes and to congratulate our students on their hard work, dedication and focus and wish them all the best for a successful future!”