Derry man Noel Christy has got a post as Junior Business Advisor and is now working to help other local people start their own businesses

Noel Christie, left with Brian O'Neill from Enterprise North West. Picture Martin McKeown.
Noel Christie, left with Brian O'Neill from Enterprise North West. Picture Martin McKeown.

A unique approach to tackling youth unemployment has helped a young Derry man get his foot firmly on the career ladder with a new job at Enterprise North West.

Backed by the Lloyds TSB Foundation for Northern Ireland, the Advance Programme is a pilot project that finds work for young people not in employment, education and training.

Noel Christy, 27, began his post as Junior Business Advisor with Enterprise North West in December and is now working to help other local people start their own businesses.

The Advance Programme is currently filling 40 posts with young people aged between 18 and 26, giving them 24 weeks’ paid employment in a range of social enterprises throughout Northern Ireland with the goal of transforming these short term posts into permanent jobs.

This £300,000 pilot project has been developed and managed by Larne Enterprise Development Company Ltd (LEDCOM) in conjunction with Enterprise Northern Ireland and funded by Lloyds TSB Foundation for NI in partnership with Lloyds Banking Group.

“The Advance programme is a UK first for the Foundation and the Trustees will be keen to evaluate its impact to consider the potential to share the learning in other UK regions. We are delighted to support the Northern Ireland social economy, whilst also providing such a practical response to the scourge of youth unemployment,” commented Sandara Kelso Robb, Executive Director of the Lloyds TSB Foundation for NI.

After graduating with a degree from University of Ulster at Magee in 2010, Noel found it hard to find a job in his field. He took a job in retail and then spent two years teaching English in Spain.

When he returned home he applied for jobs but rarely even received a letter from any of the businesses.

At a career fair in the Millennium Forum he heard about the Advance Programme and thought it sounded good.

He went through the application and interview process and was offered the job at Enterprise NW, which currently employs six people but is expanding as it has won several new contracts.

Brian O’Neill, Business Development Manager with Enterprise NW said: “Qualifications are less important than getting the right person. We were looking for someone with an interest in business who we could then train.

“We were seeking someone who was level headed, a team player, has good communications skills and works from their own initiative.

“We would recommend the Advance Programme to other social enterprises but the important thing is that these are real paid placements with the potential to become permanent jobs.”

Advance Programme Manager Audrey Murray said: “This programme has been incredibly successful so far in sourcing the right person for the right job.

“This is a very unique and special programme in that we are matching the skills and career aspirations with the needs of the social enterprise.

“Each social enterprise that is participating has a real job available and this programme is building capacity in the organisation allowing it to grow.

“We’ve been really impressed with the young people who have applied for this programme; they just want a chance to prove themselves.”

Noel says he’s delighted to have been selected for the post and hopes it will become permanent at the end of the 24 weeks.

“I like helping people get started with their own business.

“It’s also brilliant meeting lots of different people, going to events and networking. This has been a real opportunity for me – it’s a real job with hands on experience.”