Atlantic TU host ‘Smart North West Conference’ exploring potential of the North West region

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Dr Catherine O’Mullan, Director of Curriculum and Academic Standards at NWRC; Paul Hannigan, Head of College, ATU Donegal; Dr Orla Flynn, President ATU; Anne McHugh, Chief Executive, Donegal ETB and Prof Paul Bartholomew, Vice Chancellor, Ulster University at the Smart North West Conference organised by the North West Tertiary Education Cluster (Ulster University, ATU, North West Regional College and Donegal ETB).

On Friday 7th October, Atlantic Technological University hosted a conference exploring the economic and social potential of the North West region in terms of education and employment, with insights from guest speakers.

The conference was addressed by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Mr. Simon Harris T.D., who outlined the Government’s commitment to supporting education collaboration on an all-Island basis.

Keynote speaker economist, author, broadcaster David McWilliams.

Over 150 guests attended the event with economist, David Mc Williams sharing his views on best practice for transforming the region into a growing economy.

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Conference moderator, Tommie Gorman (former RTÉ’s Northern Editor).

Former RTE Northern Editor, Tommie Gorman hosted the event which examined cross-border activity taking place in the region and highlighted plans for future collaboration in terms of employment and education, with partners working in collaboration to provide leadership, opportunity and the development of a talent pipeline for the region and beyond.

The conference was organised by the North West Tertiary Education Cluster (NWTEC) comprising of the four main Educational Institutions in the region, and includes Atlantic Technological University (ATU), Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB), Ulster University (UU) and North West Regional College (NWRC). The cluster was established with the aim to bring about real and positive change to the region by supporting enhanced economic prosperity and social benefits to the region through education and employment.  Funding for this initiative in 2019 and 2020 was secured through the Irish Higher Education Authority (HEA), and specifically a funding stream to support the restructuring of the higher education landscape.

Speaking about the conference, President of the ATU, Dr Orla Flynn, referring to the skilled workforce, availability of talent, connectivity, and the quality of life in the region, said: “This is a project of huge strategic importance to the North West and one ATU is delighted to be a partner in. Together with Donegal ETB, Ulster University and North West Regional College, we want to make the North West region an attractive place to study and work and this cluster will play a vital role with other key stakeholders to ensure that we continue to develop the region for everyone”.

Vice-Chancellor and President of Ulster University, Professor Paul Bartholomew further added, “Since the formalising of our further and higher education cluster in 2018, collaboration between the partner institutions on both sides of the border has continued to present opportunities to deliver on our shared vision and objectives for the region and beyond.  Improving access to tertiary education and training for students living and studying in the North West City Region, the partnership is increasingly informed by those core growth sectors that are reflected in Ulster University’s contribution to the Derry City and Strabane District Council City Deal.

Through enabling progressive student pathways that reflect current and future careers across diverse sectors such as healthcare innovation, artificial intelligence, industry 4.0 and data science, the North West Tertiary Education Cluster is uniquely placed to support the career aspirations of students and the growth ambitions of the region.”

The conference concluded by hearing from leaders in industry and education discussing why it is best to look to the North West.

Press release from Atlantic Technological University Donegal

Industry leaders Darragh McCarthy, CEO and Founder of FinTrU; Larissa Feeney, CEO, Accountant Online; John Healy, Vice President and Managing Director, Allstate Northern Ireland and Padraig Monaghan, Managing Director, Optum Ireland & UK.
Ciaran O’Brien, Director of FET, Donegal ETB; Anne McHugh, Chief Executive, Donegal ETB; Tommie Gorman, conference moderator; Dr Martin Gormley Director of Schools, Donegal ETB.