Educational institutions in the border regions and Northern Ireland are to collaborate on a new digital media project aimed at providing training opportunities for up to 190 participants.
Called Digital Diversity, the scheme is intended to boost the social, cultural and economic life of the cross-border region by providing learning initiatives in the area of creative digital media. It is envisaged that the programme will help to develop a pool of skilled workers that would contribute to the development and growth of a creative media industry in the North and the six border counties.
The project is 75pc financed by the European Social Fund, with the UK and Irish Governments also contributing through Area Development Management/Combat Poverty Agency under the Peace II programme. The initiative will be jointly managed by Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT), University of Ulster (UU), Dream Ireland and the Upper Bann Institute of Higher and Further Education.
A further aim of the Digital Diversity initiative is to foster reconciliation and understanding, to ensure access, participation and opportunity for disadvantaged young people, the displaced, women, graduates and adult learners within the cross-border region. As a result, the recruitment programme for the scheme will actively target those affected by the conflict in the North. The project’s content will also be tailored to give students an appreciation of the challenges and benefits of reconciliation.
The initiative has also sprung from economic problems in the area; according to recent Central Statistics Office figures, the Irish border region has an unemployment rate of 6.4pc, higher than the state average of 4.4pc and the highest in the country for any region. In addition, traditional industries in the north-east border region and the North have been in decline and there is a resulting comparatively low level of marketable skills amongst the local population.
Digital Diversity has three independent but sequential learning programmes, set at three levels: access, certificate and masters. An access course funded by the Centre for Cross-Border Studies is offered to approximately 10 participants at a time in several community venues in Dundalk and Newry. The certificate programme in creative digital media is currently being offered on both a full and part-time basis, and is delivered in DKIT and the Bann Institute. Starting next month, a masters in future communications in creative technology will be delivered by both DKIT and UU on a full-time basis over three calendar semesters. There will be 30 places for students, 15 in DKIT and 15 in UU.
Dr Tom Collins, director of DKIT, said: “The development and implementation of the Digital Diversity project alongside other creative media projects and initiatives, in particular, the establishment of the new School of Informatics, Music and Creative Media and the development of the new post-production studio on the campus through the Midas Project, will provide opportunities for communication to be forged between the students of the course and creative media enterprises located in the region and thus expose graduates to a greater range of employment opportunities.”
By Gordon Smith