South West College is one of the largest vocational and technical Colleges in the United Kingdom employing over 900 staff, servicing some 22,000 full-time and part-time students, with an annual turnover of £42 million. The College is rurally located in the western region of Northern Ireland, and offers modern technical, vocational and social based curriculum to support the local and regional economy. The College has a strong reputation across the United Kingdom and beyond for excellence in service delivery, consistency of performance and a commitment to continuous improvement. In April 2014, the College was formally inspected and was awarded a ‘Grade 1 – Outstanding’, placing it as the only regional College in Northern Ireland to be awarded this accolade and one of only a few in the UK.
SWC has four innovation centres which act as interactive learning and exhibition spaces in which SWC learners – primary and post-primary school children, entrepreneurs and companies from a variety of industries – attend to encourage them to participate in creativity, innovation and informal learning. Each Innovation Centre enhances curriculum provision by providing learning in topics such as video game development, animation, product design and 3D printing.
The innovation centres are;
- STEM: Science Technology Engineering Maths
- CREST: Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies
- IMAGE: Creative Industries Studio
- IDEA: Product Design and Development Studio
SWC is a pioneer in STEM facility for young people and in 2011 opened the UKs first teaching facility focused exclusively on delivering educational and interactive activities in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (http://www.stemcentreni.com). The Centre has been designed to bring a ‘wow’ factor to STEM education and generate impactful learning experiences through hi-tech interaction and collaboration. Activities within the Centre are offered to school pupils (Key Stage 2&3) and college students and since opening the STEM Centre has welcomed over 15,000 young people, teachers, educationalists and parents. In 2012 the STEM centre was awarded two prestigious Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Awards, the AQA Award for College/School Partnerships and the AoC Presidents Award recognising the influential work carried out by the Centre to increase STEM interest and capabilities.