Mid and East Antrim’s Manufacturing Task Force has celebrated NI Apprenticeship Week with an event highlighting the importance of apprenticeships to the local economy.
Hosted by Moore Concrete, ‘Build the Future with Successful Apprentices’ brought together a number of key partners, including Northern Regional College and the Department for the Economy, who shone a light on the amount of opportunities available, what it takes to implement a successful apprenticeship model as well as the manufacturing sector’s wider plans for apprenticeship programmes.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey, highlighted the importance of apprenticeships both for individuals and businesses within Mid and East Antrim.
He said: “NI Apprenticeship Week has developed into a far-reaching initiative that brings together all stakeholders involved in the development and delivery of apprenticeships to raise their profile across Northern Ireland. It also looks to celebrate the many successes of those who have taken part in providing and training apprentices locally.
“There are clear benefits of apprenticeships whether that be for individuals interested in developing their skills and employability or for employers who are keen to grow and strengthen their teams.”
Over the past week, Council has led on a series of opportunities to raise the profile and showcase the best apprenticeship programmes within the Borough.
“I hope NI Apprenticeship Week has encouraged many people to consider the apprenticeship route as part of their career path,” the Mayor continued.
Graham Whitehurst MBE, Chair of Mid and East Antrim’s Manufacturing Task Force, explained how apprenticeships are “gaining strong momentum”.
He said: “Apprenticeships are a key component of our local and national economic recovery as we continue to rebuild the local skills base. They provide an excellent means by which to deliver a wide range of skills to support business needs, especially within the manufacturing, construction, agri food and engineering sectors, all of which are key sectors of focus in Mid and East Antrim.
“Apprentices offer a means to harness fresh talent for companies as they look to equip their workforce with the latest in practical skills and qualifications, helping to meet wider business requirements.
“Additionally, at a sectoral level, initiatives such as the recently launched Hydrogen Training Academy will play a critical role in training and upskilling existing employees as well as new trainees to a recognised professional competence standard required for the hydrogen sector.
“Through initiatives such as this, led by our Manufacturing Task Force, Mid and East Antrim is cementing its position as a hub for SME innovation, skills and commercialisation activity and a springboard for the clean growth sector and industry.”
Wilbert Moore, Managing Director of Moore Concrete, outlined the importance of apprentices to his workforce as well as sharing best practice from his organisation.
“It’s important for us a major employer in the area to provide insight into how we implement and manage our apprenticeship programme and the model we use, one which has proven extremely successful for us as a business.
“Not only do our apprentices gain essential skills and experience, they also get a head start on their chosen career path through earning a competitive salary along with the support and time to study for a recognised industry qualification.
“We have a number of apprentices at various stages, such as Level 2, 3 and Higher Level, and our expectation is to increase our headcount going forward.
“Our apprenticeship programme has grown in scale and scope over the last number of years into something that we have found has been of mutual benefit to ourselves as well as the students. Through the combination of theoretical aspects of their course with the practical aspects they undertake with us, you can see how they mature and develop over time as valued members of the workplace. It’s a win-win situation.
Sean McAleese, Work Based Learning Manager at Northern Regional College which has two campuses in Mid and East Antrim explained how the College works with a number of businesses across the Borough to deliver specific training programmes for their business to ensure a sustained pool of talent and skills.
“The value of undertaking an apprenticeship programme cannot be understated. We often work alongside organisations who have a particular training need, then design a bespoke apprentice training programme to deliver a wide range of relevant theoretical and practical skills.
“Programmes like these also introduce students to continuous improvement, problem solving techniques and standard operational procedures in the workplace.”