Open College Network stages inaugural Learner Awards

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ABOVE: Sam McGarrigle from Belfast Met who won Health & Wellbeing Learner of the Year and the Hilary Sloan MBE Learning Endeavour Award, Kate Fleck, Chair of OCN NI and Sharon Rivers, Head of School for Health, Well-Being and Inclusion at Belfast Met.

Open College Network NI (OCN NI), an independent educational charity and awarding body that advances education by developing nationally recognised qualifications for adults and young people throughout NI, has staged its first ever Learner Awards ceremony at Stormont Hotel in Belfast.

Over 200 winners, highly commended entrants and VIP guests attended the event, which also included a special address from one of Northern Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs of recent years, Bill Wolsey OBE.

The OCN NI Learner Awards is also a signature event in the Belfast Festival of Learning, which runs from March 4-10 across the city.

The Recognising Learning Endeavour Awards 2019 covered a range of categories, including schools, further education and voluntary sector learner of the year, an inspiring tutor/teacher award, health and wellbeing learner award and an educational provider award.

Special consideration was given to candidates who have overcome significant social, economic or educational barriers that prevented them from realising their full potential.

The full list of winners – School Learner of the Year: Georgie Courtney, Lagan College; Health & Wellbeing Learner of the Year: Sam McGarrigle, Belfast Met; Further Education Learner of the Year: Daniel Wotherspoon, Larne Skills Development; Voluntary/Community Sector Learner of the Year: Rhys Field, One Eighty Restaurant; Inspiring Tutor/Teacher of the Year: Graham Bowden, Tree NI; OCN NI Provider of the Year: Women’s Tec; and Hilary Sloan MBE Learning Endeavour Award: Sam McGarrigle, Belfast Met.

Martin Flynn, CEO of Open College Network NI (OCNI), said: “Today’s awards event marks the culmination of over a year’s planning to provide a platform for us to publicly recognise and reward the hard work and dedication which we see every day at OCN NI.

“A key aspect of the awards ceremony was the idea that ‘no one should be left behind’ so we were delighted to see such a large number of students, tutors/lecturers and providers enter the various categories and attend today’s event in such numbers.”

Martin Flynn added: “Work has already begun on plans for an even bigger event next year based on the success we have experienced in 2019.

“Through our recognised centres we will continue to support the Draft Programme for Government by tackling educational underachievement and helping to create a skilled workforce to meet the needs of the NI economy.

“I would take this opportunity to thank our judging panel, VIP guests and Bill Wolsey OBE for delivering such an inspirational speech.

“Finally, I would like to congratulate not only our winners but everyone who has taken part in this year’s event and helped make it a success we can all be proud of.”

Lynn Carvill, CEO of Women’s Tec, winners of the OCN NI Provider of the Year award, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been awarded this prestigious accolade in such a competitive category.

“As the largest provider of quality training for women in non-traditional skills in Northern Ireland, we are very proud of the work we do in local community not just in our north Belfast base but across the Province.

“As more and more organisations strive to create more diverse, inclusive workforces, we believe we have a very important role to play in ensuring that this commitment extends to industries and sectors which traditionally have had an under-representation of women.

“I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of all our staff and students and commend OCN NI for all of the support and expertise they have provided to Women’s Tec and a host of providers across Northern Ireland.”

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