Assured Skills Academies help make IT a sector for everyone

  • Orlaith McEneaney, Analyst at KPMG Ireland, shows how the programme helped her achieve her dream of working in tech

    If you’re unemployed, underemployed or want to change careers, the Assured Skills programme offers pre-employment training to get the skills you need for the job you want.

    Fully funded by the Department for the Economy, Assured Skills is a demand-led, pre-employment, industry-focused training programme, helping individuals gain the skills needed to compete for guaranteed job vacancies with Foreign Direct Investment companies as well as new and expanding locally based businesses.  It simultaneously assures investors, creating new employment in Northern Ireland, that the skills they require will be available.

    In the last three years, the programme has upskilled, 1606 individuals across 94 academies, resulting in 1406 people obtaining full-time employment, representing over 85% graduation to-hire rate.  Assured Skills academies have been instrumental in supporting a range of individuals, including unemployed and under-employed people with the opportunity, through intensive training, to set themselves on new career paths. 

    Employers involved in the programme are exciting, high-growth companies looking for people with drive, a positive attitude and determination to succeed. The Assured Skills programme has proven successful for people wanting to start careers in IT. Previous graduates have secured full-time jobs in data analytics, software development, software testing, cyber security, games development and other IT roles.

    In 2021, KPMG launched a strategy to grow a new Centre of Excellence in the heart of Belfast that would attract local technical talent and provide an environment for them to grow and thrive. As part of that strategy, KPMG worked closely with the Department for the Economy and Belfast Metropolitan College to define an industry-leading Data Academy.

    Orlaith successfully completed this ten-week Academy between April – June 2022 delivered by the Belfast Metropolitan College. Upon completion of her training had an interview with the KPMG Applied Intelligence leadership team and successfully gained employment as an Analyst.

    Q. How did you first hear about the Assured Skills Academy and what inspired you to apply?

    I spotted the Academy on Instagram one day, just as I was beginning my job hunt. When I saw the advertisement for the KPMG Applied Intelligence Academy, I swiped up, read through it and thought that's definitely something I want to apply to.

    I studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Queen’s University and graduated during COVID but I wasn't sure where to go career-wise, so I stayed on and completed a Masters in International Public Policy.

    My dissertation focused on how the UK and the Australian Governments were handling big data and the deployment of artificial intelligence, before adopting it within the public sector. I found the topic incredibly interesting and uncovered an ambition to get into tech. The challenge was I didn't really know how to code, and I didn't know what I had to do to get a tech job. I watched a lot of online videos on coding for beginners but wasn’t sure if that is what tech companies wanted or needed. This is where the Assured Skills programme really helped.

    Q. What was your experience of the process and how difficult did you find the Academy?

    The whole Academy was well structured. It started at a beginner level with Excel and Data Fundamentals before progressing to more intermediate levels with Python and other coding modules. The instructors were always very patient and supportive.  

    We learnt a lot very quickly and I felt like I had completed a university degree in those ten weeks. For the exams, some were more difficult than others, and I guess it depends on what your skill set is and what you liked the most. While there were a couple of exams I did find difficult, they were not impossible to pass.

    Q. How did the Academy prepare you for work within KPMG?

    Another great thing about the Academy is the additional focus on soft skills including presenting, creative thinking, communication, and business acumen, which are all key skills in the workplace. On the first day, you present who you are and introduce yourself to the team, which immediately demonstrates the importance of communication.

    The Academy is in partnership with the firm, so they are also part of the process. Every few weeks, KPMG Managers and Consultants would join topics, and we would present to them. They would then provide valuable feedback. We also had the opportunity to visit the KPMG Belfast office and meet members of the Applied Intelligence team. It didn’t feel like going into a new workplace as a newbie, as I already knew five or six people, so going from the Academy into a new job felt seamless.

    Q. What does it feel like to be working ‘in tech’?

    It feels exciting! There's always so much going on and it's such an expanding sector. No matter what your interest is, it's always linked to tech in some way. I think what's great about the Belfast Centre of Excellence is that so many people in our office came through the Academy and everyone has different backgrounds. We have people that were in Archaeology, Computer Science, and then Social Sciences like me, and everyone brings something new to the table. It's a diverse team and even though we're all in one sector, we all have different personalities and I think that's great.

    Q. What advice would you give to anybody considering a career in tech?

    I would say go for it! No matter what your interest is, whether that's Health, Finance or Sport, there's always going to be a connection to tech. If you don't want to put yourself in a box for your career, tech is a good place to go because there's so much room to grow and move.

    To find out more about the Assured Skills Programme and the current opportunities available visit

    This article has been sponsored by the Bring IT On programme, promoting opportunities and career pathways into the IT Sector in Northern Ireland –

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