Apprenticeships are key to 'tackle skills deficit in NI', further education leaders say
APPRENTICESHIPS are the key to "tackle the skills deficit in Northern Ireland", further education leaders have said.
To mark the third annual Apprenticeship Week, the north's six Further Education colleges are highlighting the importance of apprenticeships to address the skills shortage.
Ken Webb, chair of the Further Education Principals' Group, last night said "as the skills deficit in Northern Ireland becomes clearer the value of apprenticeships cannot be underestimated".
In partnership with the Department for the Economy, further education colleges are this week highlighting how apprenticeships are the first step to gaining vital knowledge and skills that are needed to further advance economic and skills development.
Apprenticeships exist in a range of professional and service sectors that are calling out for more highly skilled individuals to contribute to their economic growth and recovery.
Examples of these include apprenticeships in hospitality, engineering, applied sciences, cyber security and marketing.
More than 40,000 people have undertaken an apprenticeship in Northern Ireland, which has led to full-time employment.
Mr Webb said: "This week gives us a prime opportunity to reflect on the importance of apprenticeships and the skills they provide to tackle the skills deficit in Northern Ireland.
"Apprenticeships can play an important part in tackling this deficit by providing people with a learning structure and valuable work experience that provides qualifications and holistic skills that are needed for economic growth.
"As the skills deficit in Northern Ireland becomes clearer the value of apprenticeships cannot be underestimated.
"With close links to over 9,000 employers, further education colleges stand ready to create more industry aligned apprenticeships to ensure our local communities have the skills necessary to gain employment in our localities.
"On Apprenticeship Week, all six colleges encourage any individual looking to re-skill to consider an apprenticeship. It is an open door to a promising career."
Sebastian McFarland, who is a level three mechanical and manufacturing engineering apprentice at Northern Regional College, said "if anyone is thinking of changing career or wanting to re-skill, I would thoroughly recommend an apprenticeship".
"You get paid to learn so you don’t end up with student loans that need repaid," he said.
"Plus, the balance between practical experience with your employer and the time you spend in college helps make everything relevant."