SOUTH Eastern Regional College (SERC) has welcomed the announcement from Economy Minister Diane Dodds that employers will be offered £3,700 for every apprentice that they bring back from furlough and retain until they have completed their apprenticeship. There will also be £3,000 available to employers for each new apprenticeship opportunity created between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021.
Dr Michael Malone, Director of Curriculum & Information Services at SERC, said: “South Eastern Regional College trains and supports over 950 apprentices from Level 2 through to Higher Level Apprenticeships in subjects ranging from Accounting to Fire & Security to Mechatronic Engineering to name a few.
“This announcement from the Economy Minister is a step in the right direction and we welcome all support which helps young apprentices to secure their employment during this very unsettling period. At the peak of the lockdown 71 per cent of our apprentices were furloughed although the figure is now down to approximately 22 per cent.
“This creates a double uncertainty for too many young people about both their employment prospects and whether they will be able to complete their qualifications. This is why SERC makes a commitment to those young apprentices, who do not return to work after furlough, that they will have the opportunity to complete their apprenticeship qualifications with us.”
He added, “It is essential that we continue to train and skill our young people to avoid any future skills gaps which could prevent the full economic recovery we all desire.”
Adam Russell (21) from Portadown, Level 3 Engineering Apprentice at SERC’s Lisburn Campus, currently on furlough from JW Kane Precision Engineering Ltd, said, “Obviously, the future is a huge worry, given that my employer is an aerospace specialist though there have been no redundancies as they are making full use of the furlough scheme.
“I am hopeful that the new funding will give employers more incentive to bring apprentices, like me, back into work. I am so close to completing my apprenticeship and chose this route so I could earn whilst learning on the job. I am keen to progress to a higher-level apprenticeship once I finish my Level 3 qualification.”
Jake Reynolds (20) from Lisburn, is in year 3 of his Level 3 Electrical Installation Apprenticeship at SERC’s Lisburn Campus. He was furloughed in March until the end of July when he returned to work with his employer Farrans Construction.
He said, “My biggest worry was that I wouldn’t get back to work to finish my apprenticeship. Both Farrans and SERC were great at keeping in touch and letting me know what was going on when we went into lockdown.
“I am glad to be back at work and I hope the funding announced by the Minister will help keep up the skills needed to keep the economy going.”