A new portfolio of Professional and Technical Training Provision is set to be rolled out in Northern Ireland shortly, it has been announced recently.

The new package will be focussed on the needs of the individual, and are now out for consultation. They will be replacing the current Jobskills programme, the current primary vocational programme for young people aged between 16 and 24 for more than 10 years.

The new programme, which will use the term Professional and Technical Training rather than "vocational", was announced by the Employment and Learning Minister, Maria Eagle. She made the announcement during her visit to the Bombardier's Skills Centre at the Interpoint Building in Belfast recently.

Support for the Young People

This new programme will aim to provide the greatest possible amount of support for the thousands of young people making use of the training in Northern Ireland each year. This will include the provision for young people of pre-apprenticeship courses whilst still at school, offering better careers advice for them, and enabling their progression directly into employment at 16 whilst training for their apprenticeships.

The programme will aim to be more integrated and tailored to the requirements of the learners. There will be attention paid to making sure learners have the option of moving on to study on foundation degree courses. It will also address areas of basic skills deficits, such as literacy and numeracy.

The paper highlights the manner in wish the Department are planning to pursue their commitments under the Skills Strategy regarding the renovation of Training and Adult Skills in Northern Ireland. It is hoped that this will help to unlock the potential of the young people in Northern Ireland thereby ensuring a strong economic and social fabric.

Key Role to be Played

Speaking after her tour of the centre, the Minister Maria Eagle said:

"These new proposals will play a key role in providing the skilled workforce our economy needs to prosper. They will encourage greater involvement from employers in providing our young people and adults with improved skills.

"Bombardier is a good example of positive employer involvement," she continued. "They provide their apprentices with employment from day one of training and give them the skills necessary to carve out a successful career in engineering. This is exactly the model that I want to see as central to the new training provision - a model that provides the young person with employment and training in relevant skills from day one, whilst, at the same time, providing long-term benefits for the employer."

Raising Potential

Continuing her address, the Minister spoke of her specific vision for the programme, saying:

"I want all young people to receive the guidance and opportunities that will help them fulfil their potential. Training is no longer a second-rate alternative to academic education and the move to employment from day one reinforces my commitment to providing professional and technical training that leads to long-term career opportunities.

"This provision will give young people professional and technical training that is directly relevant to the world of work. It will provide employers with the long-term benefit of a workforce trained to meet their requirements. Finally, it will provide the economy with a generation of young people who will be given the support they require to succeed and will help us avoid wasting our talent," she concluded.

The consultation will run until the 22nd of September 2006.

Jethro Marsh

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