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Work-Based Learning

Work-based learning is the term that is used to refer to courses, such as Traineeships and Apprenticeships, that provide you with real-life work experiences whilst applying academic and technical skills to enhance your employment opportunities.

What is a NI Traineeship?

The NI Traineeship programme provides a high-quality vocational education and training programme at Level 2 and is aimed at school leavers who aspire to work within a specific sector.

The NI Traineeship is available to all participants, providing the skills and qualifications necessary to secure employment in their chosen occupation including transition to a Level 2 apprenticeship during the programme where relevant.  The NI Traineeship also provides progression to a L3 apprenticeship or alternatively to L3 Further Education.. 

A NI Traineeship programme comprises the following key elements:

  • A main professional & technical qualification in the chosen occupational area;
  • Skills development and digital skills;
  • Transversal skills;
  • Work placement;
  • Literacy and numeracy qualifications al Level 2 (may include GCSE qualifications in English and mathematics);
  • Additional qualifications deemed necessary for work within a sector e.g. Health and Safety, CSR, manual handling;
  • Project Based Learning will also be a key feature of Traineeships. With this type of active and engaged learning, you will be inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects you are studying and develop a wide range of hands-on skills.

NI Traineeships will be available in the following areas:

Animal Care
Carpentry & Joinery
Health and Social Care
Hospitality and Tourism Team Leader
Motor Vehicle
Professional Chef
Travel and Tourism

Traineeship Diploma

On successful completion of a NI Traineeship, participants will receive a full Traineeship Diploma equivalent to five GCSEs at grades A*-C (including English and Mathematics qualifications at level 2).


The majority of NI Traineeships will typically take up to two years to complete on a full-time basis.   Some NI Traineeships take one year to complete including:

Health and Social Care
Travel & Tourism

Participants who achieve qualifications during the first year may progress to an apprenticeship or further education earlier.

Entry Requirements  

Applicants will be required to hold a minimum of a Level 1 qualification defined as 4 GCSEs at grades D-G including Maths and English grades D-F or equivalent. However, most areas will require higher grades in Maths and English.

Applications will be progressed according to the College's Admissions Policy. For high demand courses, the following additional criteria may be applied:

  • Enhanced grades criteria – applicants with higher grades may be given priority, as shown in the table below.
  • Previous students of the College or a student from a partner school may be given priority.
Professional/Technical Area GCSE Maths Grade GCSE English Grade
Brickwork D E
Carpentry & Joinery D E
Childcare D D
Engineering D D
Hairdressing D D
Health and Social Care D D
Hospitality and Tourism Team Member E E
Motor Vehicle (Light) D E
Motor Vehicle (Heavy) D E
Plumbing D D
Professional Chef E E
Travel and Tourism E D

Applicants who do not meet the enhanced entry criteria will enter an Introductory Phase of the Traineeship.  Upon enrolment trainees will undertake initial assessments which will confirm whether they should enter the full Traineeship or the Introductory Phase.


Achievement of the Full Traineeship Certificate

Those that complete the qualifications equivalent to five GCSEs at Grade C passes including English (or Communications Level 2) and maths (or Application of Number Level 2) will receive an overarching NI Traineeship Diploma issued by the Department for the Economy.

Partial Achievement

Trainees who do not achieve all of the components will be recognised for partial achievement. This may mean that the trainee passes the professional & technical qualification but does not achieve level 2 communication or level 2 numeracy. Trainees who have partial achievement may be able to progress to FE Level 3.


Trainees who secure employment, in their chosen occupational area, during their traineeship can transfer seamlessly to Apprenticeship Level 2.  As an apprentice, if you become unemployed during your apprenticeship, you can transfer onto a Traineeship to complete your programme.  Find out some tips on how to secure an employer.


On completion of the NI Traineeship, you can progress within the College to a Level 3 further education course or a Level 3 Apprenticeship (possibly with your work placement employer).  This can lead to Higher Education options. 


Trainee Support


Trainees will receive free Health and Safety Equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  

Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)

Trainees may be entitled to an Education Maintenance Allowance. EMA pays £30 per week and is available to 16–19 year-olds (means tested). Attendance is monitored and payment is dependent on full weekly attendance in all subject areas including placement.  Bonuses are also payable on the achievement of qualifications. EMA Application forms are available online.

Further Education Grant

Trainees can apply for an FE Grant which is means tested and non-repayable.  The deadline to be guaranteed support is 30th June although applications are open until the 30th September.

Hardship Fund

If you are age 18 or over on 1 July 2021 and suffering from financial hardship you may be eligible for financial assistance through the College’s Hardship Fund.

Online Learning

If you are required to engage with online learning colleges may facilitate this by lending the IT equipment which you require.

Travel/Bus Pass

Trainees are eligible to apply for a bus pass.  Bus passes are issued through the Education Authority (EA). To receive a bus pass, a trainee must:

  • Be under 19 on 1st July before the start of the academic year
  • Be studying a Further Education or Traineeship course 
  • Live at least 3 miles from their nearest college

Trainees will also be reimbursed for their travel costs to work placement.

Free School Meals

Trainees under 18 years of age at 31st July before the start of the academic year, may be entitled to free school meals. Applications must be made by your parent or guardian to the Education Authority. School meal tickets will be available from reception and should be collected on a weekly basis.

Pastoral Care

Trainees will receive a high level of Pastoral Care from College Staff with appropriate support mechanisms in place.


The details set out above may be subject to change by the Department for the Economy.

Employer Support

An Employer Guide to Traineeships is now available providing an overview of the Northern Ireland Traineeship, range of Traineeships available, alignment to Apprenticeships and Frequently Asked Questions.


For further information please contact:
Sean McAleese, Training Manager
028 2566 4266 or 07554 118467

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