An award-winning fit-out company has announced it is taking on two new apprentices, who will learn woodwork and joinery on-the-job and in college.
McCue Fit-Out, which has around 100 employees in Carrickfergus, has joined forces with the Northern Regional College in Newtownabbey to offer the positions.
New apprentices Chris Sargeant, from Newtownabbey, and Simon Beggs, from Larne, have already been undertaking preliminary training with the company, which won 'best small or medium enterprise' at the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards earlier this year.
Managing director Les McCracken said: "Apprenticeship programmes are important as they help boost core skills and bridge gaps to employment.
"We are proud to get behind the Belfast Telegraph campaign."
Production manager Stephen Johnston said several senior staff members, including operations manager Gary Purdy, had risen in the firm after starting as apprentices.
In fact, Mr Johnston said he favoured hiring apprentices.
"My preference is to bring apprentices through the ranks so they know the system from the outset and know what's expected of them, and know that time-keeping, attendance and quality of work is important," he said.
He said he would recommend hiring apprentices to other companies.
"Rather than bring people who have served time elsewhere, bring them in raw from school - then they know what to expect after they have served their time," he added.
Sean McAleese, training manager at Northern Regional College, said its partnership with the firm was "a strong endorsement from McCue in the potential of our trainees and a valuable investment in the next wave of skilled joiners and craftspeople".
The economic downturn has prompted McCue to look beyond Northern Ireland for custom. Clients now include URBN, owner of trendy clothing brand Urban Outfitters, for which it has fitted out several stores in England.
McCue recently won three awards at the retailer's Annual Summit in Philadelphia.
It also recently fitted out Irish newsagent Eason's new flagship store, the upstairs section of restaurant the Potted Hen and nearby Zen, also in Belfast's St Anne's Square.
McCue is one of four firms nominated for the 'shopfitting excellence award' and 'fashion retail interior of the year' gong at the upcoming Retail Week Interior Awards 2012.