New levy on training of apprentices 'unwelcome'
Apprenticeships in Northern Ireland will be set back by plans for a levy to be paid on the training programmes, trade union Unite has said.
The apprenticeship levy is to be introduced in April and will be payable on all companies with a wage bill of over £3m.
But Unite regional deputy secretary Jackie Pollock warned that extending the levy to Northern Ireland would undermine the quality of apprenticeships. He said their effectiveness had already been undermined by the introduction of further education college-led programmes, instead of employer-led training.
"We fear that employers who currently provide apprenticeships will end this provision in order to avoid being forced to pay twice through the apprenticeship levy."
And he said there was no guarantee that money raised would be channeled back into skills.
Meanwhile, a conference held by Unite heard a call for a fast settlement to political instability from the province's biggest manufacturer, Bombardier. The aerospace company, which is cutting around 20% of its 5,000-strong workforce over the next two years, said political stability was essential to the health of the manufacturing sector.
Michael Ryan, vice-president and general manager for Bombardier, said: "In Northern Ireland, obviously we have had a few, very high-profile disappointments in recent years, with the closures of some companies.
"The rest of us, including Bombardier, have been challenged as well. We all do our risk planning at a macro-global level, at a national level and at a local level in Northern Ireland.
"We can't foresee all the risks, but we can try to mitigate what happens and look to the long term."