Workplus has announced that it has created 120 apprenticeship opportunities with 28 employers in Northern Ireland and applications are now open.
Two apprentices from Armagh and Keady have given their backing to the campaign.
Marius McBrien, 27, a former pupil of St Patrick’s Grammar School in Armagh, is in the second year of foundation degree apprentice in civil and environmental engineering with Farrans in Belfast, while Monica McNally, 19, a former pupil of St Patrick’s High School in Keady, is in the first year of a higher level apprenticeship in civil engineering with Atkins in Belfast.
Both say they believe the opportunity to gain qualifications with no fees while getting paid to work is something that all young people should consider.
Workplus, which helps employers develop talent through apprenticeships, estimates that almost £8m will be earned by the successful candidates over the period of their apprenticeships, some of which will last up to six years, with the possibility of permanent jobs.
Those successful will take up positions at companies including Farrans, Translink, Atkins, Liberty IT, Jacobs and McAdam Design in the autumn to gain on the job training in career areas including engineering, construction, IT, administration and accountancy.
Workplus brings together employers, potential apprentices, colleges and universities to create apprenticeship opportunities and is supported by professional bodies.
Marius said: “I went to university but left after two years as I wasn’t enjoying what and how I was learning. Having the opportunity to gain qualifications while getting on the job experience is accelerating my career.
“For me, the fact I don’t have to pay university fees and earn a wage has made this change in career possible. I find that some of my friends who are university graduates are jealous as they are still paying student loans and have relatively little career experience!”
Monica added: “I applied for a Workplus apprenticeship while completing my A Levels and applied for university at the same. Even though I had the grades for university and received an offer I chose the apprenticeship route for lots of reasons, including the facts my fees are paid, I will have no debt and I have a decent salary.
“On the job experience and the opportunity to ask my colleagues lots of questions is really important for my learning. I’d encourage anyone to look at the opportunities Workplus offers.”
Richard Kirk, Director of Workplus, explained: “Many of the young people who are applying for Workplus Apprenticeships are telling us that full time study along with the debt and career uncertainty at the end is not the right route for them.
“Our apprentices get real jobs, good pay with a starting salary between £13,500 to £19,000 depending on entry level, as well as access to training and professional networks that will transform their lives.
”Over the duration of their apprenticeships we estimate that this year’s intake will earn almost £8m in salaries, while avoiding around £750,000 of student debt from course fees which is good news for them, their parents and the wider economy.
“With a Workplus Apprenticeship, employers get bright, focussed and ambitious people who ensure their companies have the skillset needed to remain competitive. We believe that apprenticeships are the future of work and education.”
Apprentices generally work four days a week and spend one day studying at local further education colleges and universities. Apprenticeships are available for applicants of all ages.
Jim Wilkinson, Director of Apprenticeships, Careers and Vocational Education at the Department for the Economy, said: “The Department is pleased to see 120 apprentice positions being made available, this year, in areas of economic significance.
“The Apprenticeship Programme enables apprentices to earn as they learn from the age of 16, gaining invaluable industry experience and provides a direct progression pathway to higher levels of professional and technical work.”
Applications for this year’s Workplus scheme are open until February 28 at www.workplus.app