Belfast Telegraph

Apprenticeships target is beaten

We did it! A hundred days ago the Belfast Telegraph decided it would try to do something to help the dire employment situation among our young. In our 100 Jobs In 100 Days campaign we wanted to back apprenticeships as a real option to help start a career. Today we can announce that with the help of many friends...

By Margaret Canning

We've done it, and then some. The Belfast Telegraph has succeeded in securing pledges to create 100 apprenticeships over 100 days — in fact, we secured 108.

Firms who signed up to our 100 Jobs in 100 Days campaign since its launch on May 29 have vowed to recruit apprentices. They range from sole traders to the province's biggest company, Moy Park.

Employment Minister Stephen Farry, whose department has responsibility for apprenticeships, congratulated the Belfast Telegraph on its campaign which marks its 100th day today.

He said: “The campaign has done much to highlight the true value of our apprentices and their importance to our businesses.”

Prime Minister David Cameron and First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have also given their enthusiastic support.

We also attracted the backing of some of Northern Ireland’s most respected industrialists, like one-time Harland and Wolff apprentice Sir John Parker, who went on to lead several FTSE 100 companies, and former Shorts chairman Sir Roy McNulty, now the deputy chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority.

Today Co Armagh-based Moy Park has said it will create six apprenticeships for its existing staff. Engineering firm McGreevy Engineering in Belfast is taking on two new apprentices to ensure the engineering skills it needs for its aerospace work are passed on.

And in a fitting denouement, Belfast Telegraph founders W&G Baird announced that they are creating an apprenticeship.

We have maintained a roll of honour detailing companies which have signed up and the numbers they have taken on. One has even raised the number of apprentices it initially pledged. Tony Shivers, manager of Premier Electrics in Bellaghy, Co Londonderry, yesterday said it would now take on two staff instead of the one we originally recorded.

“The campaign was a great idea,” he said. “We had taken on an apprentice a couple of years ago and had thought, it’s about time we were doing it again. This campaign gave us the push we needed to do so.”

The endorsement of small to medium-sized firms has been the backbone of this campaign. In June, JD McGeown in south Belfast told us that they would hire two apprentices.

The company said it had stopped taking on apprentices during the downturn but then found itself to be lacking in the new blood necessary to replace staff who were leaving or retiring.

And in one of his final actions as Secretary of State, Owen Paterson pledged his support, saying: “I congratulate the Belfast Telegraph for taking positive action to support young people and businesses in Northern Ireland with the 100 jobs in 100 days campaign.

“The benefits of apprenticeships are proven: young |people gain experience and the |opportunity to learn as they earn and businesses get loyal staff, well trained to meet the needs of their business.”

Mr Paterson added: “Many top businessmen and women began their careers as apprentices — some of them, such as Sir Roy McNulty, have supported the Belfast Telegraph campaign.”

Apprentices are typically young people. But the Department for Employment and Learning recently cut funding for over-25s in all but what it describe as “economically important” areas like IT and engineering.

Justin Edwards, assistant chief executive and curriculum director at Belfast Metropolitan College said: “With the unemployment rate among 18-to-24 year olds having just hit a UK high, the Belfast Telegraph’s 100 jobs in 100 days campaign is more timely than ever.”

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‘I really wanted to start work and earn money’

By Margaret Canning

With eight good GCSE grades under his belt, Matthew McManus could easily have gone on to study A-Levels.

Instead, the Co Down 16-year-old opted to apply for an apprenticeship at Irwin Electrical Services, which pledged to take on six new apprentices in response to the Belfast Telegraph’s 100 jobs in 100 days campaign. Matthew — whose apprenticeship started this week in Portadown — said: “I had a work placement in October 2011 while I was still at secondary school and I had actually chosen to do plumbing.

“But my brother is an electrician, and during the placement I was edging more towards what the sparks [electricians] were doing rather than the plumbers. I was enticed towards the electrical side of things.”

Despite the A-Level path being open to Matthew after earning eight GCSE A to C grades — a former pupil at |New-Bridge Integrated College in Loughbrickland — he wanted something else.

“I really wanted to go into the world of work and earn myself some money. It was my priority to get into the career of an electrician. It was the main thing I wanted to do,” he said.

“I definitely enjoy what I am doing. It’s a real learning curve.”

The first few days of his apprenticeship have entailed learning about street lights.

But he admitted he had been worried about the future: “I was definitely concerned. I know how tough it is in the trade and how hard it is to get a job.”

His is a four-year apprenticeship and who knows what the future could hold. He could maybe even set up by himself and generate employment.

Three more firms sign up to our jobs drive

By Margaret Canning

Three new companies pledged to create apprenticeships in the last few days of the Belfast Telegraph’s 100 Jobs in 100 Days campaign.

Antrim printing firm W&G Baird, Co Armagh-based poultry processor Moy Park and McGreevy Engineering in Belfast will take on nine apprentices in total.

Noel Millar, NVQ and outreach manager at Moy Park, said it would give apprenticeships to six existing members of staff to help them go further in their careers.

Mr Millar said: “It’s a way for the company to increase flexibility on the shop floor. It’s also a means for staff to take on more responsibility, go further with the company and gain a promotion.”

Around 30 staff have gone through an apprenticeship programme in Moy Park over the past eight years — and 80% of them have moved forward in their career with the business.

“People can always go further, depending on their own push and drive,” said Mr Millar.

“The company will make sure you are absolutely developed to your full potential,” he added.

Trevor Brennan, finance director of printer W&G Baird — which founded this newspaper as the Belfast Evening Telegraph in 1870 — said it had recruited an apprentice for its bindery section.

“We need operators and there is a skills shortage in binding,” he said.

He praised our campaign, saying: “I’ve been reading it all the way through with interest. It’s great that there is some good news out there.”

Tommy Hanna, works manager at McGreevy Engineering, said it was taking on two new apprentices to address a lack of skills.

“There are no skilled guys out there, so we are just going to train them up ourselves,” he said.

Mr Hanna said the problem stemmed back to the closure of engineering training centres around the UK in the 1980s.

They are now seeking people with good results in maths and science.

“We want people who will be able to apply themselves to the job,” he said.

Roll of honour

Novosco IT 1

Premier Electrics 2

Irwin Electrical 6

Consilium Tech 2

Schrader 3

BT 13

NI Water 10

Translink 14


Communications 1

McCue Fit-Out 2

Belfast City Airport 1

Peter Maud Hair Peace 2

Creative & Cultural Skills 20

Crossen Engineering 2

Fusion Heating 2

William Coates 2

Moyola Precision

Engineering 4

Balloo Inns 1

JD McGeown 2

Michael Deane 1

Moy Park 6

McGreevy Engineering 2

WG Baird 1

Delta Print and Packaging 6

Bill Harris Hairdressing 1

Air Cool Engineering 1

Total number 108

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