Those successful will take up positions at companies including Farrans, Translink, Atkins, Liberty IT, Jacobs and McAdam Design in the autumn to gain on the job training in career areas including engineering, construction, IT, administration and accountancy.
Workplus brings together employers, potential apprentices, colleges and universities to create apprenticeship opportunities and is supported by professional bodies.
Richard Kirk, Director of Workplus, explained: “Many of the young people who are applying for Workplus Apprenticeships are telling us that full time study along with the debt and career uncertainty at the end is not the right route for them.
“Our apprentices get real jobs, good pay with a starting salary between £13,500 to £19,000 depending on entry level, as well as access to training and professional networks that will transform their lives.
”Over the duration of their apprenticeships we estimate that this year’s intake will earn almost £8m in salaries, while avoiding around £750,000 of student debt from course fees which is good news for them, their parents and the wider economy.
“With a Workplus Apprenticeship, employers get bright, focussed and ambitious people who ensure their companies have the skillset needed to remain competitive. We believe that apprenticeships are the future of work and education.”
Apprentices generally work four days a week and spend one day studying at local further education colleges and universities. Apprenticeships are available for applicants of all ages.
Joshua Shannon, 22, is an apprentice at Jacobs in Belfast. The former Grosvenor Grammar and Ashfield High School pupil, works at Jacobs four days a week and studies for a Department for the Economy funded Higher Level Apprenticeship Foundation Degree in Civil Engineering at Belfast Metropolitan College one day each week. He is in the final year of a three-year course.
He said: “You might think that becoming an apprentice would be scary because you are one of the youngest in the company but I’ve found all my colleagues very supportive – everyone wants you to do your best!
“A lot of my friends went to university but some have ended up leaving as they had to work part-time to fund their courses while studying full-time. They all say they wish they had chosen the apprenticeship route because they see how happy I am earning while I learn. Some of them are actually going to apply this year.”
Fallon Gowland, People Lead at Jacobs, said that working with Workplus had many benefits for the company.
“Employing apprentices and working with colleges and universities to ensure that they become highly skilled is a great way for us to deal with skill shortages and ultimately support the growth of our individual companies.
“Being a Workplus client also gives us the platform to engage with schools to reach students of all ages and promote our opportunities to teachers and partners as well as supporting our recruitment targets.”
Jim Wilkinson, Director of Apprenticeships, Careers and Vocational Education at the Department for the Economy, said: “The Department is pleased to see 120 apprentice positions being made available, this year, in areas of economic significance.
“The Apprenticeship Programme enables apprentices to earn as they learn from the age of 16, gaining invaluable industry experience and provides a direct progression pathway to higher levels of professional and technical work.”
Applications for this year’s Workplus scheme are open until February 28 at www.workplus.app
At the launch were Joshua Shannon, apprentice at Jacobs in Belfast; Jim Wilkinson, Director of Apprenticeships, Careers and Vocational Education at the Department for the Economy; Richard Kirk, Director of Workplus and Fallon Gowland, People Lead at Jacobs.