Further education: Matching college courses with the needs of local industry

Donegal Education and Training Board has trained hundreds of locals to prepare them for jobs with Pramerica Systems

Success story: Jonathan Coyle with his wife, Jackie, and son, Tristan, who achieved a City & Guilds level 3 advanced diploma for software developers from Solas training centre in Letterkenny. Photograph: Mark Stedman/Photocall

Success story: Jonathan Coyle with his wife, Jackie, and son, Tristan, who achieved a City & Guilds level 3 advanced diploma for software developers from Solas training centre in Letterkenny. Photograph: Mark Stedman/Photocall

 

The pairing of Donegal Education and Training Board and Pramerica Systems in Letterkenny is a good example of a relationship that has worked well to match courses at the college with the needs of local industry.

Pramerica Systems Ireland is a business and technology operations company in Letterkenny, Co Donegal. As a leading employer in the northwest , it has a staff of about 1,200. Of these, 450 did a further education and training course with Donegal ETB, which prepared them for a job with the company.

Since 2004, Donegal ETB has linked with Pramerica to provide courses that meet the company’s employment needs, primarily in training software developers and testers for the company.

“Very few people on the course come from computer backgrounds,” says Michael Carr, assistant manager, training with Donegal ETB.

“One guy, Jonathan Coyle, was a plasterer who lost his job due to the downturn. He had never seen a computer before he came on the course, and afterwards he went straight into permanent employment as a software developer.”

All candidates take an aptitude test before starting. “It is important to know that people have an aptitude to do the programme, problem-solving being a big area,” says Carr.

Donegal ETB’s 38-week intensive software development and software testing courses include four weeks of work placement – most students do this with Pramerica, and most end up with a full-time job after their placement.

“We train 20 software developers and Pramerica will usually take all of these, and then we train 40 software testers and they’d take about 20 of them.

“Every year, about eight weeks out from the start of the course we sit down with Pramerica and see what their needs are. If the company says we need 35 developers this year, then we can run two programmes. But we don’t want to train them if they don’t get a placement. We don’t want to build an expectation.”

The ETB has a strict rule about the courses they will run – that the certificate awarded at the end of the IT course must be internationally recognised to allow people to work anywhere in the world. “Unless we can get certification that will be able to take people elsewhere, we don’t run it.”

Once people start in Pramerica they progress quite quickly, says Carr. “They go in as junior developers or junior software testers but very quickly they spread out within the company and progress to other positions. Feedback is that they are well-equipped to deal with the needs of the company once they get in there.”

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