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Employee Insights: Core Systems LTD

Core systems logo

The Open University works closely with a range of exciting businesses and organisations across Northern Ireland to develop opportunities for our students and provide employers with the skills they need to do business productively and efficiently.  We sat down with a few of them to give you an insight from their perspective and give them an opportunity to speak about what they are looking for in students, graduates and employees.

The first in the series is Core Systems Ltd. and their CEO, Patricia O’Hagan MBE.

A photo of Core Systems CEO Patricia O'Hagan MBE


Can you give us a brief description of what your company does or what they offer?

Core Systems is a software company that provides a secure technology platform for prisoners to help them access information, services and to communicate with their friends and family on the outside. It’s like a mix of Google and Amazon for Prisoners that give them a digital experience like we have on the outside, but in a secure, controlled way that meets the security needs of the Prison Service.

Where is your business based?

We are based in North Belfast, in Northern Ireland.

How many people do you employ?

We currently have a team of 26 people, most of which are based in Northern Ireland, with part of our team based overseas.

How many years have you been running?

Core Systems first incorporated in 2003, initially working in high security technology solutions. However, we restructured in 2014 to focus on our current Prisoner technology solution.

In what capacity do you work with The Open University?

Core Systems has offered OU student internships for a number of roles across the company, on both the technology and the business teams.

Why did you decide to work with The Open University?

We were interested in working with the Open University to bring more diversity into our company.

Why did you decide to take on an OU student or graduate?

The OU students we interviewed demonstrated maturity and a wide range of life experiences and supplemental skills in addition to the knowledge gained through their studies.

Has anything surprised you about working with an OU student or graduate?

We have been impressed by the level of commitment and determination from the OU students and graduates. In our experience they are highly committed and open to learning and progression.

What do you look for in a potential employee, student or graduate?

For people at an early career stage we focus more on aptitude and attitude rather than skills and experience. In terms of attitude – we are looking for a “Can do” attitude, resourcefulness, resilience and enthusiasm. For all potential employees we look for alignment with our values and culture in terms of;

  • Integrity – good work ethic, honest, dependable and fair
  • Commitment and drive – to get things done, to do a good job
  • Innovation – curiosity, imagination and an interest in making things better

What skills or competencies do you feel potential employees, students or graduates lack?

Some of the skills we seek, but do not always see are;

  • Analytic and critical thinking, necessary for problem solving
  • Teamwork and collaboration, essential in distributed teams
  • Initiative and entrepreneurialism

What advice would you give anyone trying to start a career in your sector?

Practical experience is highly valued in the IT sector. Seek out opportunities to gain experience through placements, short term and part time work and your own projects. Consider using your skills on a voluntary basis to help other people in your community. Keep a record of everything you do and the skills you develop. You will then be able to communicate your achievements and demonstrate your potential. Enter the industry with an open mind. There is a wide range of roles within the industry and you may transition many times throughout your career according to your life circumstances and what is a good fit for you at the time.

What advice would you give anyone trying to get a job in your company?

If you have a genuine interest in what we do and feel that you want to be part of it get in contact and have a chat with us about it.

How would you describe the learning environment in your organisation?

The learning environment in our organisation is one of supportive, continuous learning and development with a focus on individuals reaching their personal potential.

Are there opportunities available for your staff to train or learn?  If yes, what are these?

Yes, our staff have considerable opportunities to learn and develop in Core Systems. As part of a small company you get to be involved in everything and to try lots of new things. Everyone is encouraged to learn and grow. In practice this means; on the job learning, supported by colleagues, research and self-study and opportunities to work on specific projects and jobs in order to develop new skills and take on new responsibilities.

Why do you provide these opportunities for your staff?

We encourage our staff to grow and develop as we all benefit. As the individual learns and develops, they progress in their career and make a higher level of contribution to the company’s success.



If you are an employer interested in working with The Open University around student placements then you can email Nicola Joyce, Employability and External Engagement Manager, at:

For current students make sure that you check out the range of job listings, careers advice and more via OpportunityHub at the following address: 

If you are interested in studying with The Open Univeristy then you can find our range of courses here:


A picture of Christine Murphy who has fair curly hair and is smiling and wearing a white jumper

For media enquiries please contact:

Christine Murphy, Communications Manager

Tel 028 9053 6219