Stephen Farry: I will back apprentice schemes
I COMMEND the Belfast Telegraph on its successful apprenticeships campaign.
Apprenticeships make a strong contribution to our competitiveness; this is why delivering a world-class system through my department's current review of apprenticeships is my top priority.
In January, I published the initial findings into the major review of apprenticeships which will transform the supply of skills, particularly at higher levels for employers and, at the same time, provide opportunities that will inspire participants.
I am proposing that, for the first time in Northern Ireland, a central service will be introduced to promote and support apprenticeship provision, including assisting both employers and potential apprentices to make informed decisions about their participation. Improved careers provision will also be put in place.
There is strong evidence that our economy will in the future require people with higher level skills. By 2020, around half of our workforce will need to be trained to Level 4, or above, on the Qualifications Frameworks.
As part of my review, I am also proposing that apprenticeships will extend from Levels 3 through to Level 8.
This expansion into higher level apprenticeships will offer opportunities to expand the system into new occupational areas, including the professions and also into the public sector.
Apprenticeships are an efficient and effective means for matching supply and demand in an economy.
Most fundamental is the principal of partnership between the key stakeholders: this will ensure that apprenticeships will be held in equally high esteem as the higher education pathway and will place employers in a lead role to ensure that the provision and content of apprenticeships meets their needs and enables them to grow.
I am grateful to the valuable contribution made by our stakeholders, in particular from employers and apprentices.
Their views and feedback on our initial findings will be used to inform our final policy.
Stephen Farry MLA is Minister for Employment and Learning