WE'VE done it! The Belfast Telegraph's campaign to create 50 new jobs in 50 days has been a resounding success – and it's been achieved 20 days before target.
The paper issued a rallying call to local firms to take up the challenge to offer Northern Ireland's young people apprentice positions – and the business community did not disappoint.
And so enthusiastic has the response been among companies that the stakes have been raised. Now it's become a race to create 60 jobs in 50 days.
Business advisers PricewaterhouseCoopers yesterday helped our 50 jobs in 50 days campaign hit its target with a whopping 28-strong apprenticeship package.
PwC revealed its commitment to deliver the high-calibre apprenticeships for school-leavers in a recruitment drive to be launched at a special open night next week.
Every position being offered is within PwC's Higher Apprenticeship in Professional Services programme.
The accountancy consultants' positions follow the recruitment of 35 recent school-leavers and graduates into the programme, which leads to professional qualifications, over the past 24 months.
PwC regional chair Paul Terrington said the intake from 2012 had been an outstanding success.
"That group is about to be awarded an internationally-recognised professional qualification in less time than it would have taken to graduate from university." he said.
"We've now decided to accelerate the next phase and are happy to back the Telegraph's campaign,
"We'll recruit 28 more higher apprentices and begin the process inside the next week."
PwC's recruitment programme will kick off next Thursday at the company's offices at Waterfront Plaza, Belfast.
Meanwhile, two other firms have also become part of the first 50, with both ICT firm Eircom UK and Lucas Love Healthcare Services joining the Belfast Telegraph apprenticeship campaign.
The newest recruit to Eircom, Martin Crawley, took up his placement this month.
The position at the Belfast-based firm will offer him two years' experience in a real information and communications technology environment and will provide an insight into the networking and telecommunications infrastructure of the company.
The firm has seen rapid growth since its entry to Northern Ireland in 2007 and now employs more than 50 highly skilled staff in its Belfast office.
Martin's new position follows on from the appointment of two other recent apprentices at the technology firm, which operates the scheme alongside day-release options at Belfast Metropolitan College.
Lorraine Mason, service desk manager at Eircom UK, said: "Our apprenticeship scheme is very much earn while you learn. Apprentices are given the opportunity to become involved in all aspects of the company."
Lucas Love Healthcare has also joined the drive to offer apprentices, with one new recruit set to join the company as an apprentice on April 28.
Aaron Craig (18), from Newtownards, has been appointed as administrative apprentice and will work toward a Level 2 Apprenticeship Framework in Business Administration, incorporating a Level 2 NVQ Certificate in Business and Administration and Level 2 Certificate in Principles in Business and Administration.
Sinead Polland, director and nurse manager, said: "Having come from a non-business background myself, I understand the importance of gaining professional skills and experience in business.
"We are delighted to offer Aaron the opportunity to work in our organisation to develop his skill set and ensure he has the support and guidance to start a prosperous career."
Roll of honour
The 50 apprenticeships have been offered by:
McGreevy Engineering, Ballygowan, 1
Shrader, tyre pressure systems manufacturer, Antrim, 3
Fujitsu, IT, Londonderry, Belfast, 9
Diamond Electronic Systems, Belfast, 2
Irwin Electrical Systems, Ballymoney, 2
Flow Technology, Newtownabbey, 1
GB Data NI, Belfast, 1
Ridgeway renewables supplier, Belfast, 1
Lucas Love Healthcare, Belfast, 1
Eircom, Belfast, 1
PwC, Belfast, 28