An electrical contractor in south Belfast has backed our campaign to create apprenticeships and said that failing to hire apprentices can starve a workforce of new talent.
Our 100 jobs in 100 days campaign aims to encourage business owners to invest both in their own companies and in young people by hiring apprentices.
JD McGeown, which is based in Windsor Business Park, works in the educational, health, government, commercial and leisure sectors. It also has a facilities management department.
Contracts manager Marty McCusker said the company, which employs 67 people, stopped its apprenticeship scheme during the economic downturn but found it had no new blood to replace staff who were retiring or leaving for new jobs.
Now it has started to hire apprentices again, hiring three newcomers in the last six months, two of whom started two weeks ago.
They are getting an insight into all aspects of the trade - industry, administration, estimating, quantity surveying and management.
Mr McCusker said: "In good times, we used to take on up to 10 apprentices every year, but we hadn't had anyone for about three years due to the economic downturn.
"But really, we found at that stage we were starving our own labour force. There were no personnel coming through with our own background to replace people who were leaving or retiring.
"It was identified as something that was going to be a problem, so that was why we started taking on apprentices again."
He said the electrical trade could suffer in the future if apprentices are not coming through.
And the company viewed taking on an apprenticeship as a major commitment but one that was worth the effort.
He added: "We had a lot of help from Belfast Met's Castlereagh branch and their training support officer, Joanne Clarke. She was very helpful in identifying the right apprentice for us.
"By completion, an apprentice will have developed through the company and be aware of all the company needs and working procedures, and hopefully be in a position to be an asset to it."
Mr McCusker himself started a five-year apprenticeship with Barrett Electrical in Omagh in 1976 when he was 16.
"Back then getting an apprenticeship wasn't really a big problem. Nowadays it's a lot harder due to the economic climate," he said.
"A lot of companies are not taking on apprentices so apprentices are finding it difficult to get positions.
"It's a long term investment. I appreciate it's a decision that's hard to make in the current economic climate but I think from our point of view, when we identified it as a problem we were having, taking on apprentices again was the right thing to do."