WHEN the University of Ulster couldn’t find a work placement in Northern Ireland two years ago for David McKeown, he wasn’t much pleased. But it turned out to be the best possible career move for the former Portadown College student, having landed him with a prestigious job with a German engineering firm.
David was one of a few students who had to go abroad for his placement, the firm in question being DeltaT Cold Chain Solutions in the city of Giessen in the central state of Hesse, population 80,000. And not having a word of German, he was somewhat apprehensive about it all.
But he soon learned to get through - “necessity and all that” - and enjoyed the six-month work experience with the company, which manufactures cooling equipment for the food and medical world.
“It was, in fact, a full year out, and I spent the second six months in the local university, studying for my degree,” said David. “It wasn’t at all easy, with the lectures being in German, but I managed and it was great experience.”
And so he returned to Northern Ireland and the University of Ulster campus at Jordanstown, having just graduated with a 2:1 BSc Honours Degree and Diploma in Industrial Studies (with Commendation) in Biomedical Engineering.
The next problem was finding a job, so he wrote off to DeltaT, asking for a reference, so that he could start filling in the plethora of forms required to get a foot on the jobs ladder in these days of recession and high unemployment.
So, imagine his surprise when DeltaT replied that they had just the job for the young Portadown man who obviously impressed them with his intelligence and commitment during those months in Germany.
David said, “I was surprised and delighted. I’m going back for specialist training for a job as the firm’s UK representative and I’ll be coming back home after six months or so. The placement was organised through the ‘Erasmus’ organisation which places students through the European network, and it certainly worked for me.”
David is son of Ronald and Iris McKeown, Chasewood Gardens, Portadown, and as well as being a former student of Portadown College, also attended Moyallon Primary School and Killicomaine Junior High.