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Online project to enhance apprenticeships goes live


Published: 24 June 2021

The six Further Education Colleges in NI have collaborated to produce a package of resources to promote and enhance the apprenticeship scheme.

Economy Minister Paul Frew MLA joined James Hegarty and apprentice Jonny Bryans at Linamar Light Metals Belfast in Dunmurry on Wednesday 23 June to launch “Mentor Connect”.

“Mentor Connect”, is supported by the NI Apprenticeship Challenge Fund through the Department for the Economy and was awarded funding of £85k. It offers a range of online materials for both employers and apprentices which will strengthen relationships and ensure that apprentices gain the maximum benefit from their experience. Employers can access a free online training module leading to a recognition as an Apprenticeship Mentor. They can also explore an Employers’ Toolkit, which explains fully the NI Apprenticeship scheme.

New and aspiring apprentices can access an Apprentice Toolkit, which provides them with the information needed to secure an apprenticeship job, to prepare them for joining the workplace and to make the most of their apprenticeship in order to build a career in their chosen area.

Welcoming the development of the Mentor Connect resources, the Economy Minister commented: “Apprenticeships are a key part of developing the skills of our workforce in Northern Ireland, offering quality training and career progression. The Mentor Connect product will be a valuable tool to enhance the apprenticeship programme and I can see it will be of benefit to both employer and apprentice. These resources align with our commitment to encouraging employers to consider taking on an apprentice and offer accessible information and expert advice. I am impressed by the degree of collaboration between different teams in the six FE colleges in NI which has produced such an impressive project. I am also pleased that funding provided through the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund helped with the development and implementation of this valuable initiative.”

James Hegarty, Health, Safety & Training Manager at Linamar Light Metals Belfast, said: “Taking on an apprentice is a great way to refresh your team, bringing a new perspective on the job from someone who is keen to learn and progress. Mentor Connect, with its range of resources for employers and apprentices, will help everyone involved to maximise the benefits of the apprenticeship scheme and will play a major role in developing a skilled workforce for the future.”

William Greer of South-Eastern Regional College (SERC) who chaired the working group drawn from the six Colleges, added: “The apprenticeship offering across the six colleges in NI is diverse and we all work with industry and business to ensure that the future workforce is fully qualified and skilled. Support from the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund through the DfE enabled us to collaborate effectively to identify the needs of apprentices and to seek out best practice in meeting those needs. The result of this is the range of resources under the umbrella of Mentor Connect, making sure employers and apprentices are fully informed about the apprenticeship scheme and its benefits, and offering employers the opportunity to gain mentorship skills as part of their own professional development - which will help everyone get more out of the apprenticeship experience. The package of resources reflects the hard work of so many teams in all the Colleges, working together to produce material we can be proud of, and which will serve to strengthen the NI Apprenticeship scheme.”

The Mentor Connect package of resources can be accessed, free of charge, via the website of any of the six FE Colleges in Northern Ireland: Belfast Met, Northern Regional College, North West Regional College, SERC, Southern Regional College and South Western Regional College.

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