Yesterday I announced the new Northern Ireland Strategy on Apprenticeships. Securing Our Success will radically transform our wider skills landscape and ensure our economy has the skills needed to grow and compete globally. For apprentices, the new system will provide them with the skills that are wanted by employers and relevant to the local economy, equipping them with enhanced prospects of sustained employment and increased earnings potential.
A new central service will assist the creation of increased apprenticeships, a strategic advisory forum, a series of sectoral partnerships will facilitate stakeholder engagement and a revised careers system will promote new opportunities.
These mechanisms are firsts for Northern Ireland and they will ensure a high-quality skills and learning pathway that will rival the world's best.
The new model puts employers in the driving seat. The central service will support and promote apprenticeships for both employers, particularly SMEs and participants, including an online portal for the advertising and application of apprenticeship opportunities.
A skills barometer will support the better matching of apprenticeship supply and demand by providing a clear indication of current, emerging and long-term skills shortages.
Apprenticeships will now commence at Level 3 upwards, offering progression into further and higher education and mobility across the wider economy. The apprenticeship will be held in equally high esteem to higher education and will provide a direct route into a range of occupations and sectors previously only accessible through traditional higher education pathways.
This strategy ensures we can harness the full potential of apprenticeships that reflect the needs of a vibrant and dynamic 21st century Northern Ireland.