OREANDA-NEWS. September 23, 2016. SSE Airtricity, Northern Irelands largest renewable energy provider, has announced the opening of the 2016 SSE Airtricity Scholarship to support students from the West and North-West of the country progressing in third level education.

The launch of this years SSE Airtricity Scholarship was officially announced by Minister for the Economy, Simon Hamilton. The programme is directly supported by the Regional Fund from SSE Airtricitys nearby Slieve Kirk Wind Park, which is Northern Irelands largest wind farm.

Now in its third year, the SSE Airtricity Scholarship is one of the most significant bursary schemes available to full and part-time students in Northern Ireland.  This year, SSE Airtricity will provide around ?80,000 in funding for 20 students bringing the total funding awarded since 2014 to almost ?250,000.

As Northern Irelands leading provider of wind power and second largest energy utility, SSE Airtricity is working with Ulster University and South West College to create greater awareness and diversity in STEM subjects, in a bid to increase employment in those areas in Northern Ireland. Among the foundation degrees available at South West College under the Scholarship this year are courses on Renewable Energy and Wind Turbine Technology.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Hamilton said:
I am committed to ensuring continued access to Higher Education for our young people.  Initiatives such as the SSE Airtricity Scholarship Programme go a long way in supporting students to enter Higher Education and can really help with the various costs associated with third level study.

I very much welcome the continued support of SSE Airtricity through this scholarship programme as it demonstrates a real commitment to learning and development.  It is a major boost to both students and employers living in the western region and is undoubtedly one of the most significant bursary schemes available in Northern Ireland.

SSE Airtricity General Manager (NI), Andrew Greer, said:
Were extremely proud to be launching the SSE Airtricity Scholarship for its third year. We understand the huge importance of education in the lives of young people and their families, and we also recognise the substantial financial commitment involved. This year, we will be supporting 20 local students in entering third-level education at two of Northern Irelands best and most forward-thinking educational institutions.

The SSE Airtricity Scholarship is part of our continued commitment to the communities closest to our wind farms, and were delighted to be powering education through green energy.

Michael McAlister - Deputy Executive Officer, South West College:
At South West College we have seen a 400% increase in the numbers of full time higher education students joining the college since we were formed in 2007, with significant growth in part-time numbers also. It is critical for the economy of the South West Region that we continue to strive to meet the demand for level 5 and level 6 students as articulated in the NI Skills Barometer. The scholarships provided by SSE Airtricity greatly support us in that work, making it more feasible for some students to enter higher education, and helping us to push our percentage of higher education students studying STEM subjects above 65% (Full Time) and 35% (Part Time).

Dr Justin Quinn, Director of the Centre of Renewable Energy Engineering, Ulster University, said:
Ulster University is committed to widening access to higher education and raising the aspirations and achievement of young people. Our partnership with SSE Airtricity will provide financial support to young people from across the West and North West of Northern Ireland who want to pursue a university degree at one of our four campuses. At Ulster University these students will benefit from an exciting and inspiring university experience while developing the industry-relevant skills that will help them succeed in their future careers.

The Scholarship is now open for applications and students are urged to apply before the closing date on Friday 21 October 2016. For more information click here.