The apprenticeship system can produce the sort of talent that Northern Ireland needs to boost an economic recovery, the head of a business organisation has said.
New chair of the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland, Mervyn McCall, was speaking at the Plumbing and Mechanical Apprentice of the Year Awards attended by 150 apprentices and employers at Belfast City Hall.
The ceremony marked the achievements of outstanding apprentices currently completing their Level 3 NVQ through Plumbing and Mechanical Services Training Ltd in Belfast.
Mr McCall said apprenticeships were about much more than just learning a trade, but also about developing communication and customer care skills and displaying the right attitude.
Mr McCall urged the government to continue to provide financial support for apprenticeships especially where they are linked to employment. He said employers, too, needed to maintain support for the system and would be rewarded by doing so.
"Mohammed Ali, one of the greatest sportsmen and communicators ever, said skill is not enough, you also need the will, in other words the drive and ambition to be the best." he said.
"In my 30 years' experience of exporting with Mivan I have seen apprentices rise to become key members of the business, capable of delivering projects, motivating people, solving problems and negotiating contracts all over the world.
"The talent that is here at these awards must be supported and nurtured. If we do so, Northern Ireland will be repaid over and over."