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50 Jobs in 50 Days: Royal backing for Belfast Telegraph's bid to help young jobhunters

Duke of York hails our initiative to boost apprenticeship opportunities as youth unemployment hits unprecedented high

By Margaret Canning

Published 12/03/2014

Prince Andrew unveils a plaque marking his visit to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday to launch our 50 Jobs in 50 Days campaign
Prince Andrew unveils a plaque marking his visit to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday to launch our 50 Jobs in 50 Days campaign
The Duke of York talks to some of the apprentices at the Belfast Telegraph yesterday
The Duke of York talks to some of the apprentices at the Belfast Telegraph yesterday. Pic William Cherry
Independent News & Media Ltd managing director Richard McClean

The Belfast Telegraph's new campaign to help the young unemployed in Northern Ireland has been given the royal seal of approval.

His Royal Highness the Duke of York has launched our new apprenticeships campaign, 50 Jobs in 50 Days.

In the first visit to the Belfast Telegraph by a member of the royal family, the Duke congratulated the newspaper on our successful 2012 campaign to encourage companies to take on apprentices – and said he was hopeful of a similar outcome for our new initiative.

"Congratulations on the idea of continuing on the work you have already done. I wish your campaign every success," he said.

Prince Andrew also sent a strong message to businesses about the importance of giving young people a chance – especially in Northern Ireland, which has a youth unemployment rate of 23.2%, compared to a UK-wide rate of 19.9%.

"I can guarantee you that most young people are not trying to avoid work," the Duke said.

Over the next seven weeks, this newspaper will galvanise companies of all sizes in Northern Ireland to take on apprentices as a means of investing in the future of the youth, while helping hone the skills businesses need to thrive in the future. The Belfast Telegraph will work with companies, colleges and the Department for Employment and Learning to create 50 apprenticeships in 50 days – a target it will reach by May 1.

Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson said: "We are delighted that the Duke of York has helped us get our campaign off to such a high-profile start.

"Our 50 Jobs in 50 Days campaign will help shine a much needed spotlight on the schemes and opportunities that are out there."

During his visit the Duke talked to decision-makers from Government and industry in a round-table discussion, before meeting apprentices and their employers.

After unveiling a plaque, Prince Andrew said: "I would encourage parents and their children to discuss and consider that the option of acquiring a skill rather than fighting your way through university is possibly a better first stage."

In 2012, our 100 Jobs in 100 Days campaign resulted in 108 pledges to create apprentices from 26 companies. Many of those who signed up then attended the launch yesterday.

Fiona: I just love engineering

Fiona Curtis, from Newry, started an apprenticeship at BT in October 2012, where her work includes installing and fixing telephone lines.

"It's very physical and mainly outside work and I love it, I really do. I always wanted something to do with engineering and I like to be hands-on. I like working outside – I really prefer it to an office job."

The 20-year-old passed maths and physics at A-Levels and had considered various options, including a course in engineering, before getting her apprenticeship with BT.

She was the only woman out of 13 apprentices taken on by BT in her year.

She had also worked as an assistant in clothes shop New Look.

"That gave me a customer service background, which I think helped me a lot."

Josh: Apprentice of the year

Josh Mens from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, is an apprentice at recycling machinery company Kiverco in the county.

The former grammar school pupil got high grades at A-Level but decided to join South West College's Gold Engineering Programme for apprenticeships.

He was named Apprentice of the Year in the Department for Employment and Learning's annual ceremony last year.

Josh (18) said apprenticeships were not a career path highlighted to him at school.

But as his apprenticeship brings him to foundation degree level and beyond, he will ultimately have the same qualifications as a university graduate. His manager Anne McKiver added: "People need to be made more aware of the benefits of apprenticeships."

Michael: Work brings maturity

Michael Duddy (22) is an apprentice at textiles business Invista outside Londonderry and his younger brother Terence (18) is an apprentice at materials company DuPont on the same site.

Terence Duddy (below right) said: "I'm enjoying my apprenticeship and I'm doing maintenance. Whenever my brother went to do an apprenticeship, I wanted to do one as well. After four years, I'll be a maintenance technician. I enjoy more hands-on stuff and I am getting paid for it. I'm learning and getting a qualification."

Michael (left) said: "I'll be a maintenance technician, too. I love the work. I think a lot of people at 16 or 17 are too immature to go to university. Working in a job gives you some more maturity and you understand the work better. I'd recommend this path."

Jonathan: No uni debt for me

Jonathan Moore is an apprentice at electrical and mechanical engineering company William Coates, where he started work in October 2012.

He has been working in commercial and industrial electricals.

"When I came out of school I applied for everything in electrical work.

"I didn't want to go to university because I didn't want to come out with £30,000 in debt at the end of it all. That was pretty much the main reason I didn't go – although I did have the qualifications."

William Coates managing director Michael Dowds said that Jonathan was a "highly qualified" candidate thanks to his previous academic success.

"Jonathan has been able to transfer that across to his work here," Mr Dowds added.

Peter: On a secure career path

Peter Kane (26) was working as a bricklayer when the downturn hit. His work was drying up so he decided to apply for an apprenticeship at Northgate in Newtownabbey, now Capita.

He has now taken seven Microsoft exams and is working in Capita as a remote desktop analyst on its desktop services machine.

He joked that he misses the outdoor work of a bricklayer during the summer, but added: "I am definitely on a more secure career path now. I can see now what I want to be and what I can achieve."

As for his friends in the bricklaying trade, "a lot of them have asked me to get them jobs".

Company service delivery director David Brown said Peter had been progressing well in the company, which was the first business in Ireland to set up an IT apprenticeship scheme.

Newspapers get things to happen, says Duke on visit

The Duke of York brought his enthusiasm for apprenticeships to the new Belfast Telegraph 50 Jobs in 50 Days campaign on a visit to the newspaper.

He led a private discussion on how apprenticeships operate in Northern Ireland and what can be done to encourage more young people to consider apprenticeships as a route into a career.

The young apprentices he met and spoke to at the launch – some of whom had been recruited by their companies over the duration of the Belfast Telegraph's 2012 apprenticeships campaign – had impressed him.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph afterwards, he said: "If there's one thing that I've learnt, and not just from your apprentices, is that if somebody as an employer takes on an apprentice, he will be getting somebody who will be keen to work.

"I don't know many young people trying to avoid work, but they are trying to find the right job and the question is how do they do it.

"The workers I have spoken to have all found the route – some of them at the encouragement of their parents and some of them by taking the tough decision that A-Level wasn't for them and they were going to find an alternative route.

"Newspapers generally are very, very good at being catalysts to get things to happen.

"This is exactly that. 50 Jobs in 50 Days is a continuation of what you have already done and will be continuing in the future, so thank you very much indeed."

If you are an employer who wants to take on an apprentice as part of our campaign, please let us know by telephoning Margaret Canning on 028 9026 4443 or emailing btapprentices@gmail.com

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