Students from Northern Regional College were among the 30 young people from Northern Ireland’s Further Education Colleges recognised as the first recipients of a Northern Ireland Traineeship at a ceremony in Stormont.
The new NI Traineeships enable school-leavers and adults to gain a qualification equivalent to five GCSEs (Level 2), while also gaining valuable work experience in the sector they are interested in. The students were recognised for exceptional progress, personal achievement, and their commitment to completing the Traineeship.
The five Northern Regional College students who were among the first cohort from Northern Ireland to complete a NI Traineeship were Josh Mullan and Cody Liken from Coleraine, Taylor Brady from Magherafelt, Bradley Yip from Ballyclare and Jason White from Ballymoney.
Josh Mullan and Cody Liken who are studying at the College’s Coleraine and Ballymoney campus, joined representatives from the five other FE Colleges at a special event at Stormont to recognise their success.
Josh completed an Engineering NI Traineeship and has since progressed to do a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Engineering. As an apprentice engineer, Josh spends one day each week in College and the other four days with his employer Hutchinson Engineering, Kilrea.
Josh said he enjoyed doing the traineeship and would encourage school leavers to consider this option: “Thanks to the traineeship, I was able to progress and I am now doing my Level 3 apprenticeship training in Engineering at Northern Regional College.
“The traineeship has given me great training and an opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people. I am developing these further by doing a Level 3 Apprenticeship at the College. At first, I wasn’t sure if a Traineeship would be for me because they had just been introduced but now I would say to anyone thinking about doing a traineeship to just do it.”
Cody completed a Motor Vehicle traineeship and is now employed with a local garage in Kilrea.
Some 2,400 people are now studying on a NI Traineeship programme through their local FE college. The programme was introduced in 2021 to offer a new accessible route to further study and employment, including Higher Education and apprenticeships. The Traineeships are available across 27 professions and are funded by the Department for the Economy, in line with its 10X Economic Vision and associated Skills Strategy.
Career pathways include auto electrics, joinery, animal care, professional chef, hospitality and tourism, travel and tourism, and childcare and early years. Participants on a Traineeship may be eligible for financial support through Education Maintenance Allowance or FE Grants. Hardship funds, free school meals, equipment, and travel passes may also be available.
Sean McAleese, Work Based Learning Manager at Northern Regional College explained that NI Traineeships were created to offer students a more dynamic and relevant vocational programme of learning than traditional academic pathways.
“There is more than one pathway to success and we know that the pure academic route is not for everyone. Josh and Cody are proof of this and the College is incredibly proud of their work and commitment to successfully complete their Traineeships.”
He added that the College recognised and acknowledged the support of local employers who participate in the programme to help ensure NI Traineeships provide our trainees with the skills employers really need.”
While undertaking their NI Traineeship, students explore real-world challenges developed by local employers and complete a period of structured work-related learning with an employer. Students also have the opportunity to achieve additional qualifications deemed necessary for work within their chosen sector, as well as skills valued by employers including problem-solving, teamwork and time management.
Clement Athanasiou, Head of Apprenticeships, Careers and Vocations Education at the Department for the Economy, which supported the awards, added:
“Traineeships have been in place for more than two years and the fact that so many people are choosing this option across Northern Ireland demonstrates how effective they are as way to learn and progress in a career pathway. In 2021 the Department committed £180 million to creating almost 20,000 Traineeship places over seven years and it is fantastic to now see participants gaining their qualifications and advancing in their careers by securing employment or moving onto further learning.
“I am hugely encouraged by the enthusiasm and skill shown by people engaged in Traineeships and it is testament to the hard work and dedication not only of themselves but also of their educators in our local further education colleges. I also want to congratulate all of the Traineeship achievers and wish them well for the future.”
Applications will open across all six FE Colleges for September 2024 entry in January and February. Further details of what’s on offer at each College are available online by searching for ‘Traineeships’ on the NI Direct website.
To embark upon an NI Traineeship, applicants must hold a minimum of a Level One qualification, defined as four GCSEs at grades D to G, including Maths and English grades D to E, or equivalent. Students can contact their local FE College for further information or visit www.nidirect.com and search for NI Traineeships.