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Online project to enhance apprenticeships goes live


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As the end of another academic year approaches, school leavers face a myriad of choices and have some important decisions to make. Should they stay on at school, look for work or consider an apprenticeship or other training opportunities? Recognising how difficult it can be to navigate these next step, Northern Regional College, in collaboration with the other Further Education colleges in Northern Ireland, has produced a package of resources to promote and enhance apprenticeship schemes.

Launched by Economy Minister Paul Frew MLA, ‘Mentor Connect’ is supported by the NI Apprenticeship Challenge Fund through the Department for the Economy and was awarded funding of £85,000.

It offers a range of online materials for both employers and apprentices which will strengthen relationships and ensure that apprentices gain the maximum benefit from their experience. Employers can access a free online training module leading to a recognition as an Apprenticeship Mentor. They can also explore an Employers’ Toolkit, which explains fully the NI Apprenticeship scheme.

New and aspiring apprentices can access an Apprentice Toolkit, which provides them with the information needed to secure an apprenticeship job, to prepare them for joining the workplace and to make the most of their apprenticeship in order to build a career in their chosen area.

Welcoming the development of the Mentor Connect resources, the Economy Minister commented: “Apprenticeships are a key part of developing the skills of our workforce in Northern Ireland, offering quality training and career progression. The Mentor Connect product will be a valuable tool to enhance the apprenticeship programme and I can see it will be of benefit to both employer and apprentice. These resources align with our commitment to encouraging employers to consider taking on an apprentice and offer accessible information and expert advice. I am impressed by the degree of collaboration between different teams in the six FE colleges in NI which has produced such an impressive project. I am also pleased that funding provided through the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund helped with the development and implementation of this valuable initiative.”

Encouraging young people to consider an apprenticeship, Sean McAleese, Work Based Learning Manager at Northern Regional College, said becoming an apprentice can be a great way to kick start a career.

“Apprentices get valuable hands-on practical skills in a real work environment and learn the kind of transferable skills that employers look for when they are recruiting.

“The resources on Mentor Connect outline everything that apprentices and employers needed to know in order to help them get the best possible apprenticeship experience,” he said.

Sean continued:

“Some people still tend to think that apprenticeships are only for certain trades in the construction sector but there are lots of career choices and opportunities for career progression for apprentices in many different areas, including Higher Level Apprenticeships in Engineering, Computing, Accountancy, Surveying and Supply Chain and Logistics.

“New apprenticeships are being developed on a regular basis in collaboration with industry partners to help close identified skills gaps.”

Ryobi Aluminium Casting UK Ltd is one local organisation that has been working in collaboration with Northern Regional College to deliver their own apprenticeship programme which sees participants working at the firm whilst also receiving training from the College.

Both were recently jointly nominated for the Large Employer Award at the Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Awards.

David Watson, Managing Director of Ryobi Aluminium Casting UK Ltd, said:

“Apprentices are the bloodline of the talent in Ryobi. We have worked in partnership with Northern Regional College to deliver this programme to ensure it is as strong as possible and both parties have invested heavily in the programme over the years.

“I am extremely proud of the programme and the apprentices that have come through it thus far. Apprentices are the future of our business and, thanks to the excellent training they receive, it will be safe in their hands.”

The Mentor Connect package of resources can be accessed, free of charge, via