Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill with students and industry stakeholders standing outside a stone building at Ulster University's Magee campus.
Michelle O'Neill with students and industry stakeholders at Magee campus. Image: MEGA

Ulster University preps for industry 4.0 with new apprenticeship course

11 Oct 2021

Students who participate will earn an apprenticeship salary from the date they begin the ‘game-changer’ course.

Ulster University is partnering with a network of Northern Ireland’s manufacturing and engineering companies to launch a degree-level apprenticeship aimed at giving students the skills for a career in industry 4.0.

The Manufacturing and Engineering Growth and Advancement (MEGA) network, which is made up of more than 60 businesses, has teamed up with the university in a bid to develop a pipeline of skilled graduates.

Students who participate will earn a salary from the date they start the course. They will incur no additional costs in their education.

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The programme will focus on preparing students for industry 4.0 careers, with skills in areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence and digitalisation. The course will be delivered by the School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems at Ulster University’s Magee campus.

At an event held on the campus last Friday (8 October), Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Michelle O’Neill, officially launched the programme and met some of the first cohort of apprentices.

“The MEGA apprenticeship degree is a groundbreaking programme that will be transformative for our manufacturing and engineering industry,” O’Neill said.

“It will support the sector to develop, drive economic growth and provide opportunities for people to develop much sought-after skills. This partnership between Ulster University and MEGA is exactly the sort of innovative approach that will help to harness the enormous economic potential of our digital and engineering capabilities. We are already a global player in these sectors and this programme will no doubt help to cement our place as a world leader.”

O’Neill also said she was pleased by the “regional benefits” the programme would deliver, calling it a “game-changer” course that would provide learners with access to no-cost higher level education.

At the launch event, students Conor Brattin and Sarah Millar told O’Neill about their plans for the degree.

Millar described the degree apprenticeship as “a fantastic opportunity” to invest in the future.

“I will be studying robotics and automation at Ulster University. These areas are a big focus in the years ahead in this region and globally so it is great to specialise in this right from the start of my career. I’m excited to get a chance to be involved in innovation with MEGA, Ulster University and the industry leaders who are investing in young people like me.”

Brattin is doing a robotics apprentice at Nugent Engineering as part of the MEGA degree apprenticeship. He said his experience learning about building robot cells and automation was interesting.

Apprentices will have access to Magee campuses’ research centres such as the Centre for Industrial Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation (CIDRA) and the Cognitive Analytics Research Laboratory (CARL).

Applications opened for the 2022/23 course intake this week and will close on 31 January 2022. A virtual open evening will be held on 4 November and registration for this can be completed through the Eventbrite page.

Those interested in applying to the course should send their CV, including GCSE mathematics grade and predicted results, to degreeapprenticeship@midulstermega.com.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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