Employers urged to embrace apprenticeships to assist north's economic recovery

Former apprentice Shannon Cartin, who has become the North West Regional College's first female lecturer in fabrication and welding. Picture by Martin McKeown

EMPLOYERS and government have been urged to recognise the role apprenticeships can play in the long-term recovery of the north's post-Covid-19 economy.

In a call marking the start of Apprenticeship Week, Tina McKenzie of the Federation of Small Businesses said such programmes will be “vital” in the coming months and years.

“FSB would really encourage more small businesses to consider apprenticeship schemes,” she said.

It comes as a number of the north's biggest private sector recruiters acknowledged the role apprenticeships have played in their recent growth drives.

Dominic Kearns, chief executive of Fibrus, which is delivering the Project Stratum rural broadband project across the north, said almost 50 per cent of new entrant trainees working on the network are apprentices.

“A project of this scale should extend to as many people as possible especially students, long term unemployed people or budding fibre engineers,” he said.

“We know further education isn't always for everyone and apprenticeships are a brilliant way to help those who want to enhance their skills or change career achieve their goals.”

Coalisland-based fibre infrastructure firm Viberoptix, which is also working on the broadband scheme, last year set up a dedicated training academy.

Viberoptix now also employs 11 of their recent apprentices. The firm is now calling for a new round of applicants to join their latest scheme.

Wrightbus has announced its plans to recruit up to 30 new apprentices as part of its continuing rehabilitation in the Bamford era.

The manufacturer will host an open evening on Wednesday, from 5-8pm, at its Ballymena factory.

Charles Hurst has also launched a search for 42 new apprentices.

The car retailer said the aftersales apprenticeship roles represent the largest annual intake of apprentices to date for the group.

Meanwhile, the North West Regional College has used Apprenticeship Week to announce its former apprentice Shannon Cartin as its first ever female lecturer in fabrication and welding.

The 25-year-old Claudy woman, who spent four years as an apprentice at the college's Springtown campus, has since gone on to work for some of the area's top engineering firms.

She now hopes her story will inspire other young people into careers in crafts and trades.

“It's a fantastic career to be in and I hope other young people who are making decisions about what to do in the next step of their lives consider learning trades like welding, plumbing and electrics,” she said.

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