ENTERPRISE Minister Arlene Foster has said apprenticeships are an “excellent way” of helping unleash the talent of young people.The Minister urged employers to find out more about apprenticeships and how they can help businesses grow.
She spoke as unemployment figures this month showed that 20,000 of 18 to 24-year-olds in Northern Ireland are unemployed — that’s 21% of economically active people in that age group.
The Minister said the figures highlighted how tough life has become for young people. “In common with economies around the world, Northern Ireland’s labour market has been severely impacted as a result of the global economic downturn.
“In today’s competitive job market, having on-the-job skills is therefore vitally important. Apprenticeships are an excellent way of helping to unleash young people’s talent and potential, benefiting both businesses and the learner.
They train young people in the skills employers want, and they are a great way to start and progress in a career.
“Not only does an apprenticeship equip individuals with the skills and experience they need, but also they also provide the opportunity to study for a qualification that is recognised by employers.”
She said apprenticeships, which can run for up to four years, were a good investment for businesses.
“Once training is completed, the apprentice can jump straight into work, adding value to an organisation from day one.
“This strengthens the young person’s employability when they compete against others who could require additional practical training. Increasing skills levels, particularly those in science, technology, engineering or maths, is a crucial ingredient in both rebuilding and rebalancing our economy.
“Employers such as Wrightbus who are investing in the skills of their workforce are clearly reaping the positive benefit for the company.”
And she encouraged other businesses to grasp the nettle on apprenticeships. “ As Enterprise Minister I urge all employers, both large and small, to find out more about apprenticeships and how they can help their business grow, as well as raise the skills level of the Northern Ireland workforce.”
Ian Jeffers, Northern Ireland director of the Prince’s Trust, said its Get Into….programmes could help prepare the young person and the employer before both embark on an apprenticeship.
“We are closing the gap between the young person and the employer. Doing that will help the young person further their CV, so that when a job is available they will have the epxerience to talk about.”
He said three-quarters of young people taking part in a training programme with Prince’s Trust went go into employment, education or training, while 40% make it into employment.