Belfast Telegraph

The way ahead for school leavers seeking careers

As many young people are now opting to enter the world of work rather than pursue a third level qualification, we examine some options available to those hunting jobs

By Clare Weir

In this day and age it's generally accepted that the vast majority of school leavers from across Northern Ireland will be taking the next step into university or further education college.

But the introduction of tuition fees, soaring accommodation costs and a changing attitude amongst employers has meant another, less travelled route for school leavers is becoming more popular.

Many are now choosing to go straight in to the world of work, whether through specialist apprenticeship programmes or through the growing number of employers offering their own in-house training programmes.

The benefits for both employers and employees can be considerable.

The former get to mould workers in the skills and attributes they need while the latter get experience of an organisation from the ground up, get paid while being trained and don't have to pay tuition fees..

So what opportunities are out there for Northern Ireland school leavers?

We look at just a few of the sectors and businesses keen to take on school leavers.


WITH a global requirement for over 27,000 new passenger aircraft in the coming years, the time has never been better for a career in the aerospace industry.

In Northern Ireland there are over 8,000 people employed directly in the sector, which contributes to 20% of the province's annual exports.

Bombardier Aerospace's three-year apprenticeship programme has been running for more than 50 years, and involves on-and off-the-job training, including day-release to Belfast Metropolitan College.

All Bombardier's apprentices work towards an NVQ Level 3 in Aeronautical Engineering, and the company recruits around 40 apprentices each year, and currently has around 120 at various stages of their course.

Apprentices spend their first year at Bombardier's dedicated training facility in Newtownabbey, where they develop key engineering foundation skills that form the basis for their second and third years.

During those second and third years, they get practical hands-on experience in a range of different operational areas within the company in order to develop the range of skills needed to meet the full requirements of the NVQ3 programme and to fully integrate into the company on successful completion of the course.

In addition to engineering skills, they also undertake key skills in communication, numeracy, and IT, as well as training in health and safety, and environmental awareness.

There are also opportunities to travel, to undergo further training, and to progress in their career, as the company invests around £7m in training and development of its employees each year.

Many of its senior managers began their career as apprentices, with some now based in Bombardier's other sites in North America.

Bombardier recruits annually for its Modern Apprenticeship Programme and the next recruitment campaign will begin in early 2014.

The next cohort of 40 apprentices will join the company next month.

Case Study

Last year, Conor Crossey, an apprentice at Bombardier and pictured on the cover of Business Telegraph, was named Apprentice of the Year.

Conor, (22), started his Mechanical Engineering apprenticeship with Bombardier in Belfast three years ago.

He said: "I had never really thought of doing an apprenticeship, but since I joined Bombardier's apprenticeship scheme, I've never looked back. It gave me the chance to earn while I learned, and the skills developed and the qualifications I gained at the end of my training has helped me secure a permanent position in the company. I'm looking forward to developing new skills as my career progresses in an industry which is constantly evolving and pushing technological boundaries."

Financial services

Business advisor Deloitte has been taking on school leavers across the UK for the last number of years, including at its Belfast office.

Its Brightstart Scheme says it offers "a headstart in a long-lasting, influential business career" and runs over a five year training period.

Depending on the area of business, day-to-day roles differ.

In Audit or Corporate Finance, participants start to build relationships with clients as they progress in their financial studies. Towards the end of the fourth year studying begins for final exams and they start to take charge of your own projects.

By the end of the fifth year they can expect to play a lead role on client work and explore many of the longer-term opportunities at Deloitte. In Tax, participants work with a variety of clients across a wide range of industry sectors – from large multinational companies to entrepreneurs and other high net worth individuals.

As their career progresses, they gain broad and in-depth knowledge of business through the varied nature of the work.

Meanwhile, PwC Northern Ireland has also launched a "learn while you earn" programme, aimed at school leavers keen to forge a career in the IT industry.

Participants can earn an HNC in Computing and Systems Development while working in PwC's Belfast centre of excellence for research, insight and analytics.

Applications for the first 11 posts as Trainee Developers within Research opened last week with a further 30 positions set to become available over the next three years.

The Trainee Developers will help design and implement IT-enabled research programmes as part of PwC's research and insight team, while studying for an HNC in Computing and Systems Development at BMC.


Employment Minister Stephen Farry launched the second IT apprenticeship scheme with the help of Peter Brimstone, now employed at Liberty IT, and Martin Fox, now working at Kainos.

Both were recruited as part of the first IT apprenticeship scheme last year

It's a sector of industry which has continued growing in Northern Ireland despite the downturn in the economy – and ICT companies have aimed to ensure that there are enough people to fill future roles by supporting an apprenticeship scheme developed by the Department for Employment and Learning.

Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry has now launched the second ICT apprenticeship scheme, in which 50 people will be recruited for software development and ICT roles in the public sector, as well as companies such as Kainos, Liberty IT, Fujitsu, Eircom NI, Relay Software and Mindmill.

He said the new apprentices would be given the opportunity of developing skills and achieving qualifications, while employers developed their business.

DEL said last year's pilot scheme had been "extremely successful," with 32 apprentices now employed in the IT industry, and looking ahead to their Level 3 qualification at the end of the academic year.

William Hamilton, the managing director of Liberty IT, said: "The ICT sector in Northern Ireland has the potential to expand and grow exponentially in the future and in order to maximise this potential we need to recruit and develop a suitably skilled workforce.

"Following the success of the scheme last year, and the high quality of apprentices we recruited, we see the ICT apprenticeship as an important pathway to recruit passionate and talented individuals into the local IT industry."

Applications must be received by 5pm on Friday August 30. For details on how to apply, visit

Case study

Peter Kane, (23), and from Rathcoole, Co Antrim, completed an IT apprenticeship at Northgate Managed Services in Newtownabbey – now Capita Managed IT Solutions – and progressed to a full-time role in the company.

"I worked as a bricklayer for six years in construction in Northern Ireland but that took a major hit with the economy so I had to really look at a different career. I saw a job for an apprentice in IT at Northgate on and I thought that was the way to go.

"I was successful and haven't looked back since. IT definitely suits me. I wish I could have got into it after school."

Belfast Telegraph

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