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Northern Ireland student cements her career in construction with top award

Civil Engineering student Fionnuala McKenna this week collected a top national prize, worth £4,000, from ConstructionSkills.

The Queen’s University Belfast student entered the ConstructionSkills Inspire Scholarship Work Placement Award competition after a successful work placement, between her first and second years, with Farrans Construction Ltd.

She faced stiff competition from other students on the scholarship scheme from all over the UK.

Fionnuala, who is on course to achieve her MEng Civil Engineering degree by 2010 said: “My work placement at Farrans Construction Ltd has given me the opportunity to learn more practical skills that compliment my degree and winning the ConstructionSkills Inspire Scholarship Work Placement Award has given me the confidence to continue to pursue my career in the construction industry.”

The ceremony was attended by Sir Reg Empey, Minister for Employment and Learning, and a host of construction employers, professional institutions and 2006/07 Inspire Scholars.

Eamonn Sweeney, Managing Director of Farrans (Construction) Ltd, presented her with the cheque at a special awards ceremony held in Belfast. Farrans provides financial sponsorship, and a ten-week placement for Fionnuala in her summer holidays.

Launched in 2005, Inspire Scholarships are helping to address the difficulties facing employers in recruiting work ready graduate staff in Northern Ireland and throughout the rest of the UK.

The scheme matches employers with a shortlist of young people looking for support. The employer then offers up to £1,500 per year funding, which is matched by ConstructionSkills to provide a bursary worth up to £3,000 a year.

After the first year, the student completes a ten-week placement with the employer. The employers benefit by gaining access to the most talented and gifted young students before they enter the graduate market.

Sir Reg Empey, Minister for Employment and Learning said:
”Despite current difficulties the future success of this industry will depend largely on its ability to engage, train and retain talented young people. The Inspire Scholarship Scheme is an excellent initiative to help encourage young and gifted students to consider a future career in the construction industry”.

Paul Sykes, Head of Recruitment and Careers at ConstructionSkills, added:
“The Inspire Scholarship Scheme aims to provide employers with a short-cut to the best graduate talent available in Northern Ireland and throughout the rest of the UK. Scholarships are awarded to bright, motivated and ambitious students like Fionnuala, who show the potential to succeed in the construction industry. This scheme is one of very few ways in which undergraduates can obtain extra funding as an incentive to choose construction as a profession”

For more information on the Inspire Scholarship Scheme visit

To keep up to date with all the latest news on what ConstructionSkills is doing and find out more about how your company can get involved in helping secure the future of the UK construction industry register for the Skills Update.

Allan McMullen,
Eamonn Sweeney,
Mark Lowry,
Fionnuala McKenna,
Sir Reg Empey MLA,
Catherine McGeady and Paul Sykes

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