A plumbing and heating firm in Co Down has announced it is taking on two new apprentices in response to the Belfast Telegraph's 100 jobs in 100 days campaign.
Bill Cherry founded Fusion Heating in Killyleagh six years ago and has built up the business into an award-winning heating installation and maintenance specialist, employing 32 people.
He said apprenticeships had made and continued to make an important contribution to the business. Now the company is getting ready to hire two Level 3 apprentices.
Mr Cherry himself trained as an apprentice with a different business in the 1980s. He said: "We have taken on six apprentices in the past four years, all of whom are still with us in the company.
"They are now fully employed, fully fledged engineers."
Mr Cherry is a strong believer in the value of apprenticeships. "It's the only way to create your own staff and hone them the way you need them to be is through apprenticeships.
"Unfortunately our education system doesn't get people ready for work so we have four years to get someone ready, so that they are ready to work in the manner our business needs with the relevant technical skills."
Mr Cherry said apprentices had to develop their personalities as well as their technical ability in order to be successful in the workplace.
"Personal skills are probably more important than initial technical ability. You can train anybody but getting someone to go out and represent the company is a different matter."
He has strong ambitions for the company he founded. "We have gone from initial start up to a turnover of £3m over the last six years and we want that to continue that growth.
"Our people make the difference and developing our apprentices forms a key part to the growth plans for our business".
Past apprentices have been shortlisted for the Apprentice of the Year and for the VQ Learner of the Year.
How initiative works
Apprenticeships usually take between two and four years, depending on the complexity and the number of qualifications required. It also depends on whether you are offering a Level 2 or a Level 3 apprenticeship. Wages are agreed between the apprentice and employer, but the minimum wage applies. Employer incentive payments are available of between £250 and £1,500 on completion and come from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) but are paid through the training supplier. An employer will be told about the potential incentive when they sign up to a programme. For under-25s, DEL undertakes to pay full costs of ‘off-the-job’ training included in the ApprenticeshipsNI framework and contributes 50% for 25s and over.
Join the campaign
If you are a business owner or chief executive interested in bolstering our young people's life choices by creating an apprenticeship, please email BTapprentices@gmail.com and we will let readers know of your interest. You should also find out about the Government Act for a minimum of 21 hours per week. The apprenticeship can be created for an existing member of staff to give them more training. You will have to come up with a personal learning plan. If you’re looking for an apprenticeship, positions are usually advertised in the same way as other vacancies, so you apply like any other job. Your local training supplier can also advise. Training suppliers are listed on the website www.nidirect.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsni.