The six regional Further Education Colleges in Northern Ireland, with the support of the Department for the Economy, have launched a new system of vocational learning focused on building a skilled workforce.
The Advanced Technical Award and Traineeships will help school leavers acquire new professional and technical skills in a range of vocational sectors.
The awards aim to address the growing skills gap in Northern Ireland and provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills for entering the world of work, as well as opportunities to progress to further study, including Higher Level Education.
The new awards are available in a wide range of disciplines such as IT, Health and Social Care, Applied Science, Construction, Engineering and Business and Finance.
The Level 2 Traineeship will equip participants with the knowledge and skills needed by employers and permits movement across to Apprenticeships and progression to Further Education.
The new Advanced Technical Award at Level 3 has been designed to meet the needs of industry and includes a 3 A-level equivalent qualification, industry related project work, skills development and a component of work-based learning.
The new vocational awards will give learners the chance to gain meaningful experience in the workplace, as well as offering progression pathways to Higher Level Apprenticeships and Higher Level Education in College or University.
Chair of the College Principals’ Group, Ken Webb said:
“We are excited to launch these two new awards at a time of enormous change in both our economy and wider society. Now more than ever, people are assessing their options and looking for careers that work for them and that offer long-term opportunities and the chance to progress. We know that currently, thousands of our young people are studying in Great Britain rather than studying locally. This brain drain impacts our economy significantly because many of those people do not return home, leaving a growing skills gap in Northern Ireland that employers are finding difficult to fill. We want young people locally to understand that there are many more routes to promising careers in areas like accountancy, healthcare, engineering and IT.”
Former student of North West Regional College, Katie Durey said:
“Going to College was the best decision I ever made. When I was planning for my future after school, I was quite unsure as to what path I wanted to take and felt that university was not the right place for me at that stage. Doing my Extended Diploma Level 3 at North West opened my eyes to what was possible through my local College. I studied Health Sciences and now have an offer to study Paramedic Science at university. The skills I gained at North West, as well as the confidence it has given me in choosing the right career path are priceless.”
John Harkin, Founder and CEO of Alchemy Technology Services said:
“Industry relies on local Further Education Colleges for that steady pipeline of skilled people entering the Northern Ireland workforce. The biggest advantage to the Colleges is that they can respond quickly to shifting demands and our ongoing relationship with them means they understand exactly what we need. The courses are designed with industry in mind. It is hugely reassuring to see that the Colleges are determined to play an integral role in growing a skilled workforce in Northern Ireland and responding to changes in industry after a turbulent 18 months.”