Northern Ireland college apprenticeships could create 100 new accountants
Northern Ireland Further Education colleges are providing 100 accountancy apprenticeships to meet the growing demand for new blood in the profession.
The scheme has been developed by Accounting Technicians Ireland and the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL).
The Higher Level Apprenticeship will be available at all six of the province's FE colleges - Belfast Metropolitan College, Northern Regional College, North West Regional College, Southern Regional College, South Eastern Regional College, South West College.
The two-year programme, which starts in September, will allow the students to gain a professional qualification - the Diploma for Accounting Technicians (MIATI) from Accounting Technicians Ireland - and work-based experience.
The course will include four days working in an office and one day training at the college.
Employers taking on apprentices include BDO, Deloitte, and Goldblatt McGuigan.
The apprenticeship is part of a growing trend of accountancy firms looking to school leavers to meet an increase in business.
Last week, Grant Thornton announced it will create 71 jobs at its two Belfast offices before the end of the year - some of which will be jobs for school-leavers.
Louise Gorman, president at Accounting Technicians Ireland, said: "We are delighted to partner with the Department for Employment and Learning on this important new apprenticeship scheme, which has the potential to create up to 100 jobs annually within the accountancy sector."
There has been a sharp rise in the number of firms looking for accountant technicians, Ms Gorman added.
"We're seeing an unprecedented demand for accounting technicians from companies throughout Ireland, with a 45% increase in demand this year, so the prospects for these students are extremely positive. Employers are increasingly aware of the important role that accounting technicians can play in managing key finance functions," she said.
DEL Minister Stephen Farry said employers will play an important part in the apprentices' curriculum.
"I am greatly encouraged by the interest shown by other employers and I look forward to the Higher Level Apprenticeship in Accountancy rolling out across Northern Ireland, with all FE Colleges involved from September 2015," Mr Farry said.
"As highlighted in our apprenticeship strategy, employers will be central to the success of our new apprenticeship system having a key role, through sector partnerships, in agreeing the curriculum and content of apprenticeships and ensuring they continue to be relevant to the needs of their sector.
"Given the support of Accounting Technicians Ireland and key employers in the sector, I am pleased to announce our intention to establish an accountancy sector partnership which will help to promote and refine the current Higher Level Apprenticeship.
"This will also develop further apprenticeship opportunities which would offer a progression route to even higher level qualifications for those working in the sector."