50 Jobs in 50 Days: Prince championed our campaign to create jobs for young
The Belfast Telegraph's 50 Jobs In 50 Days campaign came to a close on May 1 after receiving the enthusiastic championing of HRH the Duke of York, who launched our campaign in March. It surpassed its target, and succeeded in obtaining pledges to create 60 apprenticeships from companies big and small – from IT firm Fujitsu's pledge to take on nine apprentices to McGreevy Engineering's commitment to take on one young person.
Family-run company Diamond Electronic Systems on Heron Road in Belfast, which has been in business for nearly 30 years, was another signatory.
Finance director Angela Bennett confirmed yesterday that it had taken on three new apprentices after signing up to the campaign – one more than originally planned.
She welcomed Employment Minister Stephen Farry's new measures to boost the standing of apprenticeships, and was in favour of enabling people to become qualified to doctorate level through the apprenticeship route.
"It will be great for industry as it's so heavily weighted towards practical experience," she said. "One of our new apprentices has said he wants to go further once he has finished the programme.
"I think generally speaking people are a lot more ambitious these days once they start."
Taking part in the Belfast Telegraph campaign had helped attract a well-qualified pool of candidates to choose from, with the result that they had selected three apprentices aged 16, 17 and 18.
She added: "For us, apprenticeships are a great investment for the longer term.
"People are starting to see more and more the value of getting people in at a young age to teach them the principles of how they do business."
Michael Dowds, managing director of electrical and mechanical engineering firm William Coates in Newtownabbey, said any changes which were suggested should be properly implemented so that they could make a real difference.
"I have to admit, I sometimes don't have a lot of faith in things like this because they can become a bit of a talking shop."
For many contractors, much of the work was now located outside Northern Ireland.
This had made it more difficult to include apprentices in projects.
"You can't really bring 16 to 17-year-old apprentices with you to England for work," he said.
He said electrical contractors also disagreed with a decision by the Department for Employment and Learning to move delivery from the Electrical Training Trust to regional colleges.