Erinn Kerr

I'm currently working as a journalist at BBC News in Northern Ireland - mainly in the digital news team producing content for live pages and the website itself. I also do the odd shift in radio current affairs, setting up programmes like Good Morning Ulster and Evening Extra.

My NCTJ training took the wonderful form of a 17-week crash course with the Press Association in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

The course was paid for by the NCTJ's Journalism Diversity Fund which I was awarded in 2013 following an interview with a panel of journalists from the likes of the BBC and The Guardian. They obviously saw something in me, then just a politics undergrad with a few cuttings from weekly newspaper work experience and the university magazine.

In Newcastle all the trainees went from 'zero to hero' in a very short space of time, while also working shifts in the Newcastle Chronicle newsroom and trying our best to grab that elusive splash.

The North East was a brilliant news patch and I enjoyed it so much that I took my first reporting job there at an agency - North News & Pictures.

My course leader actually advised me against taking an agency job and warned I may not last because of notoriously bad conditions such as low pay and long hours (he was right about the long hours - I once spent my New Years Eve working overnight for the Daily Mail), but I grabbed what I saw as a massive opportunity by both hands.

Going from the PA course to North News was like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fryer. From day one I was expected to cover courts, inquests, murder scenes, knock doors and everything else my training had prepared me so well for. 

Thanks to the NCTJ training I managed to keep my head above water and went on to cover high-profile stories for national newspapers such as The Mirror, The Telegraph and even the Financial Times.

I lasted exactly 18 months before deciding I had enough experience to make a go of a career at home - where jobs in journalism are few and far between.

Now back in my native Belfast I'm continuing to put my training to good use and still have a keen interest in media law - sparked by my wonderful and passionate tutor in Newcastle. 

Even though I no longer work in newspapers, I still use my shorthand every day and it's greatly admired by those who never learned or have lost the skill.

It really is critical that journalists undertake NCTJ training - not only for themselves, but for the sake of the industry. Having solid knowledge of the law and public affairs, a great writing style and flawless shorthand can only benefit us and improve the quality of the work we deliver to the public. 

I'm now three years in to what will hopefully be a long and successful career in the media and I have the training I received through the NCTJ to thank for that.