A South Eastern Regional College (SERC) alumnus has returned to the College – online – to turn his knowledge and experience from multi-million-pound projects in the construction industry into a Level 6 Professional Recognition Award, with the support of the College’s Business Services team.
Matthew Bowden (31), a Mechanical Contracts Manager with Bellaghy-based FG Mechanical Building Services, first came to SERC following his GCSEs at Royal Belfast Academical Institution. The Comber man who now lives in Kells said, “I knew I wanted to do a trade upon leaving school and enrolled at my local SERC Campus in Newtownards, where I successfully completed an NVQ Level 2 and Level 3 in Plumbing and Heating as part of my Apprenticeship and was employed by Harvey Group Based in Glengormley. I really enjoyed being hands on which suited my style of learning. My favourite memory of the apprenticeship was taking part in the NI Skill Build competition for Industrial Heating. I came second, but the learning and mentoring left a lasting impression with me and what I could achieve if I put my mind to it.”
Matthew added, “On completion of my Apprenticeship, I was keen to gain further qualifications and enrolled on the HNC in Building Services which I did part-time in the evening, again at SERC’s Newtownards Campus, whilst working ‘on the tools’ with Harvey Group. The HNC helped me move into the office and to take those first steps into management with Harvey Group. I have no doubt the variety of my site-based experience gained as an apprentice working in offices, schools, healthcare and residential settings, each with their different specialist systems, and backed up with the theory and knowledge gained on the HNC helped me progress my career.
“In my current position as Mechanical Contracts Manager with FG Mechanical Building Services in Bellaghy, I manage the installation of plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems both for new builds and refurbishments. Work can take me anywhere in the UK and Ireland and I have been involved in projects in Belfast, Bristol, Dublin and I am currently working on a project of 193 new high-end apartments in Central London with a job value of £7million.
“My role involves managing all stages of construction project from the mechanical side which involves everything from pre-construction, design, technical submittals, sub contracts, through to programme, cost control, installation and commissioning.”
“The most exciting part of working in this field is that no two projects are the same – every job brings its own unique challenges, you are learning all the time. I suppose this is what spurred me on to find out about the City & Guilds Level 6 Professional Recognition Award. It was challenging but I am glad I went back to SERC, this time online, to gain the qualification. There was plenty of support and guidance to make you focus on all the knowledge and experience you have picked up over the years. You are so busy getting on with work, you honestly don’t recognise all that you have achieved until you commence gathering everything together in your portfolio.
Matthew concluded, “Right now there is a shortage of young men and women coming through to work in specialist areas of construction and with the right skills, experience and qualifications the world is your oyster. I would certainly recommend the apprenticeship route as having a trade has opened so many doors for me and my career and I have always found there are so many opportunities in the industry for those who want them.”
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