Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, was asked for an update on higher level apprenticeships during today’s Question Time. The Minister said he has “been actively encouraging and facilitating the development of higher-level apprenticeships” as they “enable young people to benefit from working with important employers in Northern Ireland, as well as to gain a recognised qualification at level 4 or above.” A number of pilot schemes are being supported by the Department to increase the number of apprenticeships in the public and private sector including a joint project with the Department for Regional Development to create 10 opportunities in the civil engineering sector. The implementation of the new apprenticeships strategy, ‘Sharing Our Success’, is also well under way – the Minister will be chairing meetings in the upcoming weeks with a view to establishing sectoral partnerships.
The Minister also provided an update on the upcoming relocation of South West College in Enniskillen. The college is currently working on a draft business case which will include a proposal to purchase the former Lough Erne Hospital site from the district council for the newbuild. The Department and the Strategic Investment Board continue to support the project although no funding commitment can be made until the business case has been approved by the Minister and the Department of Finance and Personnel.
During topical questions, the Minister answered questions on Welding Academy, the living wage, student finance and youth unemployment.