A programme that supports young people to gain the skills and experiences they need for a career in nursing has been launched in Northern Ireland.
Southern Regional College is the first in the country to pilot the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Prince of Wales Cadet Scheme.
The programme was first launched in 2019, under a partnership between the then Prince of Wales, now King Charles, and the RCN. It has previously been launched in England, Scotland and Wales.
The programme helps 16-25-year-olds to develop their skills and support them towards a potential career in nursing, by giving them access to academic study and hands on experience in the health sector.
This includes the opportunity of taking learning modules and a clinical observation placement within their local healthcare region.
Once the cadets have completed these, they are able to submit a portfolio of reflection and gain a completion certificate.
They are then supported to make decisions about next steps, which can include a level 2 or level 3 related diploma, a foundation degree or an undergraduate nursing or other health profession-related degree.
Hundreds of young people have already engaged in the programme across England, Scotland and Wales.
Head of the RCN Prince of Wales Cadet Scheme, Professor David Clarke, welcomed the launch, and said: “We are delighted to see the scheme extended to Northern Ireland.
“Across the UK the scheme has made a real difference to the lives of young people, opening doors to careers in health care and teaching vital skills for their future.
“It has been wonderful to meet the cadets in person in Northern Ireland and hear how they are getting on,” he said.
The first cohort of cadets from Southern Regional College attended their inaugural face-to-face training session at the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service in Belfast on 21 October.
The event was attended by the King’s official representative for the Country Borough of Belfast, Lord Lieutenant Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle, who welcomed the cadets to the inaugural training session.
Sara Gilpin, Southern Regional College lead for the scheme, said: “[The college] is delighted and proud that our students were able to avail of the opportunity to become the first RCN Nursing Cadets in Northern Ireland.”
“Upon meeting the cadets, the staff team were struck by their excellent cooperation, compassion and enthusiasm from the first day of the scheme,” she said.
She added: “We look forward to seeing them develop throughout the course and hearing what impact this has on their future.”