Belfast Telegraph

Apprentice is off to a flying start with top accolade

By Margaret Canning

A young man who's learning his trade at plane maker Bombardier Aerospace has been named Apprentice of the Year at a glittering awards ceremony.

Conor Crossan from Lisburn was one of many young people -who have joined companies to learn-on-the-job while also studying for qualifications - to receive prizes in the Department for Employment and Learning's event.

There are more than 11,000 apprentices in vocational training in Northern Ireland.

The ceremony, hosted by TV presenter Claire McCollum at Belfast's Holiday Inn, was attended by hundreds of apprentices, their parents and employers.

Conor began a mechanical engineering apprenticeship with Bombardier in 2009 after he was picked from hundreds of applicants. The audience heard Conor was singled out by bosses for having "confidence, output and quality of someone twice his age".

Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry praised awards entrants. "Apprentices are right at the heart of the kind of economy we want to build, and play a vital role in ensuring that we have a better skilled, modern and dynamic workforce.

"Investing in training is critical to ensure we are equipped with the skills necessary for the opportunities that will undoubtedly lie ahead. What we have witnessed here today is a testament to the real skills and talent Northern Ireland has to offer."

The minister thanked training suppliers and companies for their contribution to apprenticeships.

"Apprenticeships work for both businesses and individuals - providing companies with a skilled workforce to help them grow and giving individuals both hands-on experience and qualifications.

"It is my aspiration that over the coming years we will see more employers embrace the apprenticeship model."

The most promising first year apprentice award went to Caolan Dolan from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, who is serving an apprenticeship with BT.

Alan Haugh won the recognition award after working in food manufacturing with Linden Foods, Dungannon.

The innovation in partnership Award, sponsored by Bombardier, was presented to Impact Training, Belfast and Aramark NI, Belfast.

Apprentices in hairdressing, team leading, refrigeration, IT, hospitality and food manufacturing were among those who were shortlisted for accolades.