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Company Visits Enhancing Learning Opportunities

In January 2023 a group of 4th year Furniture Design & Manufacture and Furniture & Wood Technology students along with Lecturing, Technician and Admin staff from the ATU Connemara campus visited some exceptional companies in Northern and East of Ireland. The purpose of the trip was to give an insight to the students of the broad range of job opportunities within the industry, identifying suitable career paths, and to build on existing relationships with companies and to provide opportunities for students looking for companies for their yearlong Industry Placements.

Company visits also provide an opportunity for students to relate to and support their learning in areas of Lean Operations, automation & control, project management, BIM and entrepreneurship by seeing at first-hand how this applies in practice in the workplace along with meeting the outcomes of the Higher Education 4.0 collaborative project in ATU.

The trip started with a visit to Seating Matters in Limavady, a company that prides itself and are world leaders in the implementation of LEAN. Today Seating Matters stands as an example of world class Lean thinkers, who specialise in designing and manufacturing seating to improve and enhance the quality of life of patients through clinical excellence in the Medical Industry.

Seating Matters provided us with a tour showing us the extraordinary Lean processes that have been implemented throughout the workplace. The students were able to see at first hand the benefits of Lean in the industry and relate this to their learning in their Lean module as part of their degree programme in ATU Connemara.

The following day, our first visit was to The Deluxe Group in Portadown. The Deluxe group provide premium design and manufacturing services to various sectors such as; Hospitality, Luxury residential, Workplace, Marine, Heritage and Culture, and Visitor Attractions.

The presentation and tour of the facilities demonstrated the incredible opportunities for a range of diverse roles within the company for graduates of ATU Connemara, transferable skills in which our students graduate with and provide them with the competitiveness to allow them to apply for positions within companies like these.

Our next stop was MJM Marine in Newry where we were again warmly welcomed. MJM Marine has over 40 years’ of World Class marine outfitting experience. With in-house manufacturing facilities, MJM can offer clients a complete project management service with bespoke and turnkey outfitting and innovative solutions.

We were given a presentation on the fascinating projects in which the company have embarked on and an introduction to the Navigate Programme which is a program introduced to induct new employees, recent graduates or students on yearlong industry placements. This, followed with a masterclass presentation on all things Design led by Design Manager Brian Webster giving us an insight into the processes used within the company from design to manufacture.
We were then taken on a tour around their Newry HQ and provided with an insight into the behind-the-scenes work carried out by the employees of MJM and a full tour of the production facilities.

MJM have been prolific graduate and placement employers for well over a decade. It was really beneficial to learn about the Navigate Programme and we hope to see many more graduates availing of the incredible opportunities at MJM Marine and for our current students to take up on this opportunity to carry out their yearlong Industry Placement in the years to come.

Our final visit was to Farrell Furniture in Ardee. ATU Connemara staff and students have a superb long-lasting relationship with Farrells, seeing graduates of ATU Connemara taking up employment in a variety of roles along with the support of the company taking on our students for their industry placements. Farrell Furniture with over 60 years’ experience, are one of the leading full-service furniture solutions partner for the contract residential and commercial office sectors, specialising in furniture projects, they plan, design, personalise, manufacture, and deliver at scale.

We were greeted by one of our graduates Ryan McNally who gave a talk to our students on the opportunities within the company and talked of his own experience from graduating to starting out in employment. Ryan brought the group on a tour of the offices and workshop and explained the processes in place during the manufacturing of the products being made.

Farrell Furniture are a company who can provide such a rich learning environment during placements along with opportunities to work in a variety of departments within the company from design, production, sales and marketing, estimating to name a few.

Overall, the trip proved to be such a valuable experience for both the students and staff in providing an opportunity for students to see theories in real life, and to ask questions of the industry thus adding value to the Teaching and Learning strategies applied in ATU.

Industry Placements are an integral part of the Industry programmes in ATU Connemara and with the move to yearlong placements which commenced in September 2022 there is evermore the need to find and build relationships with companies who can offer a vast range of experience for the student, for their own personal development. Companies themselves can also benefit from the knowledge the student is bringing with them which they have gained in their first two years in ATU Connemara. it is a delight to have such great companies on board.

ATU Connemara would like to thank the companies who gave up their valuable time to give presentations, provide tours and talks and in greeting us with refreshments, your time is greatly appreciated and extremely beneficial in the continuation of building relationships for the benefit of students and graduates.

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A group of staff and students line up against a white wall that has the words lean made simple on it.

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