My department is working collaboratively across government to help young people into employment by providing skills and training through the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) information and communications technology (ICT) apprentice scheme.
This innovative new scheme came about through some ideas-sharing between DEL and my own department and quickly developed into a pilot project involving Belfast Metropolitan College and several private sector companies.
The successful delivery of the initial pilot in just a few months is evidence of two things – there is substantial capacity for innovation both within Northern Ireland as a whole and within the public sector in particular; and the combination of public sector, private sector and academia is a powerful force for the delivery of innovative and exciting initiatives.
Belfast Metropolitan College is developing tailored training to meet the needs of the employers and the apprenticeship frameworks.
The first group of 32 apprentices, who are reaching the end of their training, will be awarded Diplomas in ICT Professional Competence – 10 of whom are employed by my own department in IT Assist, part of IT Shared Services within Enterprise Shared Services.
The overwhelming response from the apprentices themselves, Belfast Metropolitan College and their employers is that the scheme works for everyone involved.
A second programme was launched last August by DEL, which recruited 44 apprenticeships and a third programme is currently underway. As someone who strongly believes in the concept of continuous learning, I wholeheartedly support this scheme.
The employment of committed, professional staff is essential to helping us achieve our departmental goals and demonstrates how government, local employers and education and training providers are working together to support the growth of the local ICT sector.
I would encourage anyone who wishes to pursue a career in ICT to seriously consider the apprenticeship route. Details on the application process can be found at www.nidirect.gov.uk/ictapprenticeships. All applications must be received by 5pm on Friday, August 29, 2014.
- Simon Hamilton MLA is Minister for Finance