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Bridge is a pathway for graduates to build new career in the IT sector

Non-it graduates have gained skills for the IT sector through a bridge to employment programme, the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) said.

Software development firm Allstate Northern Ireland, which is based in Belfast, said it had recruited and trained graduates through the programme.

Employment Minister Dr Stephen Farry said IT was a priority skills area for the province. "My department, through various initiatives such as the ICT action plan and the Software Testers Academy, will provide support and assistance to meet the skills needs of the sector."

DEL's Bridge to Employment programme is used by companies in a variety of sectors to recruit and train staff.

Clara McFall, who joined Allstate NI through the scheme, said: "With little ICT knowledge, I began training in software development, progressing on to project management within three weeks.

"At the end of six weeks, I was offered a permanent position within Allstate NI as a project manager. I have responsibility over five projects across three sites and, although somewhat challenging, it is also thoroughly enjoyable."

Allstate managing director Bro McFerran said the scheme had been successful, employing over 60 people with a 95% pass rate.

This year it expected to take on over 100 people.

"The programme offers a great opportunity for non IT graduates to kick start their career in an established company," he said.

"Previous Bridge to Employment students have now progressed to project managers and team managers, providing a very valuable contribution to the company."