Students from South West Collegewere among thirty 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 students, five from each FE College, were among the first cohort from Northern Ireland to complete a NI Traineeship.
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.
Receiving the NI Traineeship from the South WestCollege, Omagh, Dungannon and Enniskillen campuses were: Graeme Nixon, Laszlo Durgo, and Robert Allen.
Some 2,400 people are now studying on a NI Traineeship programme through local FE colleges. 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.
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.
Speaking at the event on the night was Aston Doyle, from South Eastern Regional College, who has now progressed to the next stage in his plumbing career, after completing a Traineeship in the trade. He said: “I wasn’t too sure if Traineeships would be for me because they were new, but now I would say to anyone thinking about doing one, just do it. I had great training and teaching, have met lots of new people, and I’m really enjoying my plumbing work now and know I’ll be able to make a great career in it.”
Leo Murphy, Chair of the College Principals’ Group and CEO and Principal of North West Regional College, welcomed the students to the awards. He said:
“NI Traineeships were created to offer students a more dynamic and relevant vocational programme of learning than traditional academic pathways. In FE we know purely academic routes of education aren’t for everyone and there is more than one pathway to success. Our award recipients tonight perfectly illustrate this fact and we are incredibly proud of the work and commitment they have shown in completing their Traineeships so successfully. I’d also like to acknowledge the support of all our employers who participate in the programme and who, along with our talented FE colleagues, ensure NI Traineeships provide participants 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 £180million 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.”
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 here and search for NI Traineeships or visit here.