February’s Big Apprenticeship Event at Craigavon Civic Centre was a resounding success with close to 900 people attending to speak with employers and lecturers alike about apprenticeship and higher level apprenticeship courses, commencing this September.

The event was held on Thursday 8th February in partnership with the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Labour Market Partnership. Funded by the Department for Communities, Labour Market Partnerships create targeted employment action plans for council areas, allowing for collaboration at local and regional level to support people towards and into work.

Apprenticeships and Higher Level Apprenticeships offer individuals the opportunity to pursue a career path right up to honours degree in their chosen field. Apprentices can start with a level 2 or 3 apprenticeship in subjects such as site carpentry, business administration and civil engineering to higher level apprenticeships in areas including accounting technology, applied industrial science, cloud computing and sports & exercise science.

Higher Level Apprenticeships offer apprentices the opportunity to earn a wage whilst gaining a foundation or honours degree, with tuition fees sponsored by the Department for the Economy. Apprentices therefore can save thousands and avoid the need to take out hefty student loans. Additionally, apprentices will gain a competitive advantage over university peers as they work in their chosen occupation four days week whilst studying at College one day a week.

Visiting the Big Apprenticeship Event was Tim from Portadown who said. “I came tonight to learn about the mechatronics course and basically what it was all about.”

Joining him was Jessica Donnelly from Armagh who said “I was unsure what route I wanted to follow, but open to hearing more detail about apprenticeships. After hearing one of the ambassadors, Katie Helliwell speak about her journey in digital construction I’m definitely going for an apprenticeship. The opportunity to get work experience as well as a degree and earn while I learn sounds great.”

Other attendees visited the event “To find out more information about higher level apprenticeships and get more familiar with what to do in the future. I’m very intrigued in higher level apprenticeships and want to learn more.”

One potential future student included Isaac Milligan, a Year 12 student from Portadown College. Isaac said “I knew a wee bit about apprenticeships when I came in, but now I know a lot more. I spoke with companies recruiting for higher level apprenticeships in accountancy. I’m looking forward to choosing the right apprenticeship pathway when the time comes.”

Attendees were able to speak with many current apprentices, as they joined their employers fielding questions about their employer’s business and course content. Several current apprentices also became ‘Ambassadors’ for night, speaking publicly about their apprenticeship journey.

Many employers attended the event in the search for apprentices including the Deluxe Group, Northern Ireland Water, Connex, Translink, Thompson Aero Seating, Housing Executive NI and Eden Beauty & Co.

Derry Group Ireland, who were also in attendance, commented “There is a great turn out here tonight from businesses with loads of employment opportunities available in the local area. It was great to also speak with so many potential apprentices looking to make their next move.”

Mackle Pet Foods also said “This is our second year here at the Big Apprenticeship Event. It’s interesting to see people becoming really engaged and interested in finding out more about higher level apprenticeships. There is an increased demand within our own business as we are adding in finance and logistics apprenticeship opportunities. Due to our own business growth, we’re bringing in fresh talent.”

Disability Action were also in attendance commenting, “Super turnout tonight. It’s great so see so many young people here with different needs as well coming through and seeking employment opportunities”

Lee Campbell, Principal & CEO of Southern Regional College commented:

“Tonight’s event, supported by the Labour Market Partnership, has been a fantastic opportunity for local people to learn more about the apprenticeship pathways on offer at Southern Regional College. The training and upskilling opportunities for individuals of all ages is vital for economic growth and social mobility within the region. The Big Apprenticeship Event has showcased the many rewarding career options that apprenticeships can provide, and links learners with employers who are seeking talent and skills.”

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Alderman Margaret Tinsley attended the event and commented:

“It is a real interest of mine to ensure that there are many opportunities for the people of our borough to find their way into their dream career. Apprenticeships are one way that this is possible and yesterday’s event proved the interest is palpable across ABC. The turnout exceeded everyone’s expectations and I hope that those who attended found useful information to consider as they move forward in their career choices.”

Applications for Apprenticeships and Higher Level Apprenticeship opportunities are currently open for application.