Belfast Telegraph

Not everyone is academic but everyone has a talent, says company chief as he backs apprentice drive

Rainbow Communications signs up to our jobs campaign

By Margaret Canning

A Belfast telecoms company has announced it will create a new apprenticeship in response to the Belfast Telegraph's 100 jobs in 100 days campaign.

Eric Carson, the head of Rainbow Communications, said his firm had benefited from the contribution of apprentices in the past and was ready to welcome another newcomer to their team in September.

Glasgow-born Mr Carson, who was brought up in Milford in Co Armagh, said he was given a great start on the career ladder when he started off as an apprentice in 1965.

He said: “I never really wanted to go beyond O-levels when I was at school. I hadn’t any real interest in going on and being an academic, so to speak.”

Mr Carson applied for and was accepted for an apprenticeship at Telephone Rentals, a company which supplied internal phone systems and other communication devices to businesses.

“It was a five-year apprenticeship which ended when I was 21.

“For the first three years it was learning the basics like installation of cables — and dealing with customers, which was one of the most important things.”

He combined his apprenticeship with studying on day release in Belfast, and eventually gained a Higher National Diploma in electronics.

He later worked for the company in London for three years, was moved to Dublin and eventually became chief engineer for Northern Ireland in 1975.

Mr Carson set up Rainbow 15 years ago and also became the public face of Orange, a role he performed in tandem with his work at Rainbow.

But he said his apprenticeship had taught him valuable lessons.

“An apprenticeship taught me a work ethic, for a start, and how to deal with customers, which is central to where I am now, because we are a customer service business and the first and uppermost thing in our business is that we have to look after our customers,” he added.

“I couldn’t not support the Belfast Telegraph’s apprenticeships campaign, having been an apprentice myself.

“I think it’s something that has died, to a certain extent, but it’s very, very essential.

“Not everybody is an academic but everybody has a talent, maybe with their hands or how they communicate.”

Rainbow Systems manager Barry Paul said he was also a strong supporter of apprenticeships.

“It gives people a chance because otherwise it’s hard to get a job without experience. I was an apprentice myself and it’s great to give someone else a chance to get into the industry. You’re giving something back.”

Mr Paul said anyone interested in an apprenticeship at Rainbow should contact him at the company on 028 9037 9000.

How initiative works

  • Apprenticeships usually take between two and four years, depending on the complexity and the number of qualifications required. It also depends on whether you are offering a Level 2 or a Level 3 apprenticeship. Wages are agreed between the apprentice and employer, but the minimum wage applies. Employer incentive payments are available of between £250 and £1,500 on completion and 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 a programme. For under-25s, DEL undertakes to pay full costs of ‘off-the-job’ training included in the ApprenticeshipsNI framework and contributes 50% for 25s and over.

Join the campaign

  • If you are a business owner or chief executive interested in bolstering our young people's life choices by creating an apprenticeship, please email and we will let readers know of your interest. You should also find out about the Government Act for a minimum of 21 hours per week. The apprenticeship can be created for an existing member of staff to give them more training. 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. Your local training supplier can also advise. Training suppliers are listed on the website

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