Belfast Telegraph

Captain of industry says our campaign is just the job

Margaret Canning talks to veteran corporate high-flier Sir John Parker |who speaks from experience when he hails the value of apprenticeships

A captain of industry from Co Down whose career began as an apprentice in a Belfast shipyard has backed the Belfast Telegraph’s campaign to create 100 apprenticeships in 100 days.

Sir John Parker (70) became a Harland & Wolff apprentice naval architect at 16 and rose to lead some of the UK’s biggest shipbuilding companies.

He is now chairman of Anglo American, the fifth FTSE 100 company he has worked for.

The Devon-based businessman, who is president of the Royal Academy of Engineers, said: “Congratulations to the Belfast Telegraph for taking the initiative on apprenticeships.

“Apprenticeships are critical for young people as it gives them the opportunity of the dignity of employment and also the greater opportunity to start out on a career with no idea of where it’s going to take them.”

He said his own training at H&W, which began when he was 16 and was combined with classes at the-then College of Technology, had led to many surprises in his career.

“I never thought I would ever chair the companies I have the privilege of chairing, or end up as president of the Royal Academy of Engineers.

“But you only achieve these things if you work hard and apply your qualifications.”

Family circumstances led the Newcastle farmer’s son to enter an apprenticeship.His father died when Sir John was 13, and with his mother Elizabeth left in charge of the family farm, the young man had to pick a career which enabled him to get home to Newcastle in the evenings.

He served a five-year apprenticeship and opted for further study at Queen’s University.

“It is disappointing that apprenticeships have declined but thank goodness there has been a great revival and I have been very supportive of it here in Northern Ireland and on the mainland.”

He said apprenticeships allowed young people to discover their own level of ability and skill.

Factfile: Sir John’s CV

  • Apprentice then member of ship design team at Harland and Wolff: 1959 |to 1974
  • Managing director of Austin & Pickersgill: 1974 to 1978
  • Board of the British Shipbuilders Corporation 1978 -1983
  • Managing director and chief executive of Harland & Wolff 1983 to 1993
  • Chairman and chief executive of Babcock International 1993 to 2000
  • Chairman of National Grid plc: 2002 to 2011

Now join the 100 jobs in 100 days campaign

If you are a business owner or chief executive interested in bolstering our young people's life choices by creating a new apprenticeship, please email and we will let readers know of your interest.

You should also find out about the Government-funded ApprenticeshipsNI programme by visiting www.nidirect. or call 0800 0854 573 for further information.

If you go ahead, you will be required to show evidence that you will employ the person on a permanent contract for a minimum of 21 hours per week. The apprenticeship can be created for an existing member of staff to give them more training. For all kinds of apprentices, you will have to come up with a personal learning plan.

If you’re looking for an apprenticeship, positions are usually advertised in the same way as other vacancies, so you apply like any other job — by looking at what the requirements are.

Some frameworks require, for example, GCSEs. Your local training supplier can also advise. Training suppliers are listed on the website

How the new initiative works

Apprenticeships usually take between two and four years, depending on the complexity of the apprenticeship and the number of qualifications required. It also depends on whether you are offering a Level 2 or Level 3 apprenticeship. There are no Level 1 apprenticeships. Wages are agreed between the apprentices and employer, but minimum wage applies.

Employer incentive payments are available of between £250 and £1,500 when the apprenticeship is finished. Those payments come from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) but are paid through the training supplier.

An employer will be told about the potential incentive when they sign up to an apprenticeship programme.

For under-25s, DEL undertakes to pay full costs of ‘off-the-job’ training included in the ApprenticeshipsNI framework and contributes 50% of the funding for 25s and over.

Roll of Honour

The companies who have pledged their support for our campaign

  • Jason Shankey Male Grooming
  • Novosco
  • Ever After
  • Kwik Fit
  • Donnelly Group
  • Northgate Managed Services
  • Mourne Meats
  • Belfast Telegraph/Independent News and Media

Three new companies have joined, pledging to create apprenticeships and give a young person a new chance


Susan Hill is operations director at Novosco, an IT company employing 65 people. She explains why it wants to create a new |apprenticeship and get behind our campaign. She said:

“We have around 65 staff in Dublin, Belfast and Birmingham and we offer cloud computing through our own system, CloudStream.

“We would get the person involved in the network side, the IT service side and there would be some personal development.

“Basically, we want to ‘grow our own’ by bringing in young talent — young people who want to get into IT and have that hunger. We want them to grow with the company from the start and train them through the business.”

Ever After

Ever After is a graveyard record management company which wants to create an apprenticeship which could be suitable for a young person interested in surveying. Director Leona McAllister said:

“We are quite a new business and we are thinking about our staff levels and getting an apprentice. We survey graveyards and develop detailed maps which include buildings, boundaries and headstones. Burial records can be hard to search. The handwriting is sometimes illegible. But we are protecting the material and making it searchable.

“It’s a genealogical resource because it helps people find records of their ancestors, and it’s also a management system for parishes.

If we had an apprentice we could train up, it would be wonderful as what we do is quite specialised. We use a robotic total station and a GPS system.

I am a firm believer that practical work is the best experience you can get and would love to offer that to somebody.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph