International law firm Allen & Overy has thrown itself behind the Belfast Telegraph campaign to encourage companies to take on apprentices.
New apprentices have been announced for the global law firm's Belfast support services centre in Belfast in an intake planned for the summer.
The announcement follows a successful IT Apprenticeship programme developed by the Department for Employment and Learning and Belfast Metropolitan College.
Launched as a pilot in 2012, the scheme now involves more than 20 IT employers and has recruited over 80 apprentices for software development and IT infrastructure roles in the public and private sector with plans in place to build on its success.
Two young people already reaping the rewards of the apprenticeships are 19-year-old school leaver Niamh Donegan and James Reynolds who found positions as IT infrastructure apprentices at the law firm's Belfast base, which supports a global operation of 43 offices from Donegall Quay.
In addition to on-the-job development, the pair also spend one day per week at Belfast Met learning theory and working towards Level 2 and 3 IT qualifications and Microsoft qualifications.
The young apprentices have made a good impression in their first six months and the firm recently confirmed it intends to recruit more apprentices from Belfast Met in the coming months – but has yet to confirm how many. IT support team leader Andrew Glenn said: "Our two apprentices, Niamh and James, have both made a fantastic impression in the office and are doing extremely well.
"As a firm, we are getting great value from the initiative and have been blown away by the positive and mature attitude expressed by both apprentices.
"Their thirst and enthusiasm for learning is exemplary and if they continue in this vein we foresee a promising and rewarding career for both."
Niamh said: "At Allen & Overy I've been given the opportunity to grow both my personal and professional skills.
"Every day is different and I've really come to understand just how diverse a career in IT can be.
"Working on a global scale is incredibly rewarding, my experience has transformed my perception of apprenticeships and has turned what would have been a gap year into a promising career."
Dr Jonathan Heggarty, head of the school of electronic and computing technologies at Belfast Met, said: "The public/private IT apprenticeship programme has proven to be a great success for both the participating companies and Belfast Met.
"Young people deserve to be taught real skills for real jobs."