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Hats Off! Locals achieve special recognition at NOW Group Graduation

Gaining special recognition were (L-R) Darren Taggart from Carrickfergus, and Emma Foster from Antrim.
Gaining special recognition were (L-R) Darren Taggart from Carrickfergus, and Emma Foster from Antrim.

Antrim and Carrickfergus Participants Among Over 200 to Graduate from NOW Group Training Academies


TWO NOW Group participants from Antrim and Carrickfergus, are celebrating after achieving special recognition during the social enterprise’s Graduation ceremony, which was held at Belfast City Hall recently (Wednesday 29th April).


Focussed on supporting those with learning difficulties, autism or a communication barrier into sustainable employment, this was the largest graduation ceremony in the NOW Group’s history with a total of 214 graduates from across Northern Ireland – including five from the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council area – receiving certificates for completing training in a range of different sectors, namely employability, business administration, catering and hospitality and cyber security.


Amongst the local graduates gaining special recognition were Emma Foster, from Antrim and Darren Taggart, from Carrickfergus, who achieved Participant of the Year Family Service and Outstanding Learner of the Year, accolades respectively.


Described by the NOW Group as a “dedicated and hard-working individual,” Emma first became involved with the family service in October 2020.

She recently signed up to the Employment and Training team and has completed the Level one Hairdressing Academy alongside Safer Finances. Emma is also hoping to complete the essential skills qualification in numeracy and literacy.


Meanwhile, prior to joining the NOW Group, Darren worked as a catering assistant at Halifax call centre for 18 years before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged him to explore a new career path and move into the retail sector. He undertook various training academies including successfully completing his Entry Level Two in Numeracy and the Marks & Spencer Academy, achieving a Level One Award in Retail and Business.

Darren has also recently gone on to secure a job with Marks & Spencer in Carrickfergus. 


Speaking about the graduation event, Chief Executive of NOW Group, Maeve Monaghan said:

“This is a significant day that hundreds of families across Northern Ireland have eagerly awaited, and we extend our heartfelt congratulations to all our graduates.


“We are immensely proud of all of our graduates, but a special mention must go to our award winners, Emma and Darren, who have shown incredible determination, dedication and a willingness to learn – which is what the NOW Group champions.


“It’s our hope that through our various training academies, we will be able to equip our participants with tangible skills and qualifications that will enable them to enter the workforce and make meaningful contributions to their communities.


“Well done to all of our graduates and special award winners and we look forward to supporting more individuals with disabilities in their journey towards fulfilling careers.”


In 2023, NOW Group is aiming to support 200 people with learning difficulties into employment through various academies that are currently operating in the hospitality, tourism, ICT, horticulture, and cyber security industries.


For more information on the NOW Group, visit the website:


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