Modern Apprenticeships

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment and Learning – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 30 September 2002.

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Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP 3:00, 30 September 2002

8. asked the Minister for Employment and Learning what plans she has to increase the number of modern apprenticeship places by 2004.

(AQO 204/02)

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

Modern apprenticeships are demand-led, work-based learning. They rely on interest from young people and the willingness of employers to employ and train them from day one. My Department is actively publicising the benefits of modern apprenticeships and raising awareness of them generally among young people, employers and employer representative bodies. I intend to set a target for 2003-04 of increasing participation in apprenticeships by 10%. The funding is there, and we want to work closely with employers. However, we are dependent on their co-operation.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

The Minister said that modern apprenticeships are "demand-led". Will she be examining carefully why the money that has been allocated has not been drawn down? Is she aware of, and will she be taking into account, the target in Great Britain to raise the number of young people entering modern apprenticeships before the age of 22 to 28% by 2004? Does she accept that, like higher education, technical and craft skills are vital to our economy? Will she be giving increased measure to the development of modern apprenticeships in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

I agree with everything the Member has said. We do all we can, and we will work with people to encourage the take-up of modern apprenticeships. The funding is available, but we are dependent on employers’ cooperation to some extent. Working with employers is vital.

Photo of Mrs Annie Courtney Mrs Annie Courtney Social Democratic and Labour Party

I welcome the Minister’s response. How successful is the modern apprenticeship programme in Northern Ireland in attracting young people and employers?

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

As I have already said, I would like it to be more successful. It is excellent. However, we rely on young people’s interest, employers’ willingness and probably also on good careers advice so that young people are aware of the opportunities available.

We work as closely as we can with young people and their parents, schools, further education colleges and employers.

Photo of Mary Nelis Mary Nelis Sinn Féin 3:15, 30 September 2002

I am pleased that the Minister intends to increase the number of modern apprenticeships. However, can she say how she plans to encourage more employers to engage in the scheme? In the Foyle constituency, which has the highest rate of youth unemployment, there has been a marked decline in the number of modern apprenticeships, especially electrical training apprenticeships. There were just 14 in 2001 and about 30 the previous year.

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

We have commissioned a review of the effectiveness of the arrangements for modern apprenticeships in Northern Ireland that will examine the respective performances and roles of the sector training councils, the training organisations and the employers’ organisations in the delivery of the programme. That review should be completed in December 2002.

My Department is doing all it can to promote modern apprenticeships; they are excellent, and funding is available. However, it is vitally important to have the employers on board.