Earn as you learn: NI-wide IT apprenticeship scheme launches

  • Photo: Bespoke Communications' Camilla Long with some of the CDE Global team

    Career Encode, a Northern Ireland-wide IT apprenticeship scheme for 2020 was rolled out at the Catalyst Ecos Innovation Centre in Ballymena.

    The scheme’s aim is to fill a skills gap in the Northern Ireland IT sector. It will allow school leavers and those wishing to change careers embark on a career in IT without the financial pressure of paying college fees. 

    Successful applicants will receive a full salary while obtaining an internationally recognised Foundation Degree qualification accredited by Ulster University.

    Career Encode was originally set up as a pilot in November 2018 by nine businesses heavily invested in IT. Today 11 firms are part of the scheme; Specialist Joinery Group in Maghera; FP McCann in Knockloughrim; Bloc Blinds in Magherafelt; CDE Global and Mallon Technology in Cookstown; Kilrea-based Acorn IT Solutions; Coleraine-based Spatialest; Randox in Antrim; Toomebridge-based SDC Trailers and Uform, and the Camden Group in Antrim.

    It is believed to be the first time that a group of companies in Northern Ireland has ever pooled their resources independently to increase the supply of IT professionals.  

    Working in collaboration with Northern Regional College, the scheme has already appointed 12 new IT apprentices who will build careers within a rapidly growing sector, which will increase by half over the next decade, according to the Skills Barometer Report 2019.

    Career Encode is thus seeking more Northern Ireland businesses to sign up to the scheme to ensure the IT talent resource is not outpaced by demand.

    Michael Morrow is General Manager for North America at CDE Global. He said: “As a growing company with global ambition, CDE relies on data for our complex manufacturing operations. Career Encode is helping us to develop the skills we need in our IT department to power this growth.”

    Jolene Carey, Human Resources Officer at Randox added: “IT underpins the delivery and support of all our mission-critical services. Our IT team is constantly exposed to the latest innovations and the Career Encode programme is an important part of our development plan for new talent.”

    FP McCann was so impressed with the high calibre of applicants that it offered two apprenticeships as opposed to one, according to the firm's IT manager, Brian Law. 

    Bespoke Communications, which specialises in training and leadership development, is acting as an independent facilitator for the existing 11 employers on the scheme.

    The company’s director, Camilla Long commented that “one of the biggest hurdles for businesses today is sourcing staff, particularly IT staff.”

    She added that the first initiative saw 89 young people compete for the 12 apprenticeships, and anticipates that the demand for next year’s intake will be so much higher. 

    Elaine Smyth, Director of Innovation Community, Catalyst which is one of the scheme’s venue partners added: “Career Encode speaks to the aspirations of young people and encourages them to take control of their own career journey.  This aligns to Catalyst vision to fuel opportunity and create a supportive community of employers and apprentices building the skills we need for the future.”

    Jayne Taggart, Chief Executive at Enterprise Causeway, another of the initiative’s venue partners discussed how “digital transformation is increasingly important for business growth [in Causeway Coast and Glens]” and said how pleased she was to support Career Encode “to fuel career aspirations for our young people by matching them with progressive employers who can benefit from their skills.”

    For further information log onto www.careerencode.com

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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