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Employers offering top-flight work placements to students were honoured at a University of Ulster gala awards ceremony at the Jordanstown campus last night.

Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry joined leaders of local and national enterprises at the fifth Ulster Placement Employer of the Year (PEOTY) ceremony.

Employers in the public and private sectors and Ulster students and staff were invited to nominate ‘placement partners’ who had provided exemplary student experience during the past 12 months.

Senior officers from the University and leading industry representatives presented awards to winners in the competition, which attracted more than 160 nominations.

University of Ulster Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett said: “This University provides graduates with the knowledge, skills and confidence to take on challenging graduate-level jobs, and then to contribute to the further development of their chosen profession.

“In these challenging times it has never been more important to give students work experience and we thank our partners in industry for providing these invaluable opportunities.”

Speaking at the awards ceremony Minister Farry said: “I welcome the opportunities offered by local employers to help our university students experience the world of work and develop a strong portfolio of skills and attributes through a period of work placement.

“I commend all those organisations who haveworked with the University of Ulster to offer placements. I hope that their experiences of having enthusiastic and motivated young people in their workplace will encourage them and other companies to consider taking on a placement student in the future.”

One of the winners, Sue Divin from Derry City Council Community Relations Team spoke of her delight after receiving the ‘New Partner’ award – it’s the first time this category has been included.

She said: “A lot of young people in the Derry area are finding it difficult to get work placements so we decided to do our bit. We’ve been involved in the placement scheme with the University of Ulster for two years now and we’re delighted how things have worked out. It’s an excellent resource and a mutual exchange of learning.”

Seamus McConomy, Work Experience Development Manager at the University of Ulster, said: “This annual ceremony is a showcase of both long-standing and most recent partnerships which engage students in developing their professional qualities. We aim to expand approaches which support the broadest range of employers to recruit Ulster students into diverse industry sectors.”

An independent panel assessed the submissions, and in recognition of the very high standard decided to shortlist 16 nominees in six categories.

The winners in each category were:

Placement Employer of the Year, more than 50 employees

Liberty Information Technology,

Placement Employer of the Year, up to 50 employees

BSG International Hospitality

Placement Employer of the Year Public Sector

Western Health and Social Care Trust Corporate Communications Department

Placement Employer of the Year New Partner

Derry City Council Community Relations Team

Placement Employer of The Year as nominated by a University of Ulster Student

Diageo Northern Ireland Ltd

Placement Employer of The Year as nominated by a University of Ulster staff member


Master of ceremonies at the showcase event was television broadcaster Claire McCollum.