Young people in the North West are struggling to secure much-needed apprenticeships, according to figures released by the Department for Employment and Learning. Only 103 apprenticeships are currently available at North West Regional College, fewer than anywhere else in Northern Ireland. By contrast, South West College, based in Omagh has 850 apprenticeships available.
Liam Gallagher, a member of the NWRC’s governing body and secretary of Derry Trades Council, said the figures show a need for increased resources. Apprentices need both the qualifications and an employer before they start. As the grim economic climate discourages businesses from taking on extra responsibilties, fewer apprentices will be able to find the backing to begin their course. Mr Gallagher called for the employer requirement to be set aside, so more young people can gain skills for future employment.
A spokesman for NWRC also highlighted the North West’s economic difficulties:
“The effect of the economic downturn on the local construction and manufacturing industries has also made it increasingly difficult for local employers to commit to the placement of an Apprentice”.
Both NWRC and Mr Gallagher highlighted the role of training ‘agents’ subcontracted by the state to take on apprentices. These agents are broadly concentrated east of the Bann, “making it more difficult for them to interact with our local employer base” according to the college. Nearly one in five young people are out of work according to government figures.