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Apprenticeships offering the chance to find success at home

10 July 2018

Local young people are discovering a wealth of opportunities available right on their own doorstep, with a range of exciting apprenticeship programmes offering an alternative path to career success.

Derry City and Strabane District Council is working closely with local education and skills providers to raise awareness about the training opportunities now open through a range of schemes with local companies.

The programmes offer the chance to pursue vocations through a combination of on the job training and study, and as one local woman discovered, can unlock a wide variety of prospects for young people.

Jennie Wood took up the opportunity of an apprenticeship with BT, and despite initial reservations, soon discovered the benefits of learning on the job.

The 24-year-old went to Foyle College in Derry where she completed her A-levels and, leaving with good grades, she decided to go on to university. However, after a short period of time decided gainful employment was her preferred option and a family member recommended checking out the apprenticeships on offer at BT.

“I had never thought of doing an apprenticeship,” Jennie admits. “My expectation of them was that you work odd hours and aren’t paid very well, and then you aren’t guaranteed a job at the end of it.

“But my opinion of them has completely changed due to the positive journey I’ve had myself. I knew I was taking a dip in wages at the time but realised that in the long run with BT it was a career - not just a job for one or two years. And I was aware that my earnings would go up after the eighteen months.”

Huge positives for Jennie were the fact she wasn’t lumbered with university debt, is now earning a good wage and - as someone who describes herself as a ‘home bird’ - being able to stay in Derry with all of her home comforts has been a blessing. She has also gained an NVQ qualification while working there as part of her apprenticeship.

“You can stay in your city and be successful,” she stresses. “There are plenty of opportunities and so much to be gained from it. I’ve done quite a few jobs since I started. In the first twelve weeks other employees help you settle in to your role, but even though you start as an apprentice, you’re never made to feel like you’re the ‘new start’. If you’re passionate about the job you have an equal opportunity to apply for roles as people who’ve been with the company for 20-30 years.”

Jennie progressed from the chat team to ‘floor walking’ new groups, becoming a coach and is now a cover manager. After successfully passing a recent interview it’s now her aim to secure a permanent managerial role in the near future. And there are still many options open to her within the company that she can explore as they present themselves over time.

BT is a business committed to the recruitment of local talent and hopes to offer people of all ages the opportunity to pursue not just a job, but a fulfilling career with a company that encourages its employees to climb the ladder by pursuing different roles.

Since November 2015, seventy-one apprentices have been taken on by BT and in October the company intends to recruit twenty more. Successful candidates will be appointed to online customer adviser roles and will have the opportunity to learn as they earn by gaining an NVQ qualification in customer service.

The programme, which is led by Tom Hill along with centre manager Heather Orr, lasts eighteen months. But once you join the company you are a paid employee from day one, with your salary increasing as you progress through the programme.

Speaking about the apprenticeship programme, Tom Hill, said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity and Derry is central to the company because of the local talent. We’re currently recruiting for a course in October and have assessments shortly which we would encourage people apply for.”

Heather Orr added: “This is a programme which has been a huge success for us in the Londonderry site, it has been the enabler for us to grow our BT Enterprise site to over 120 people, with more recruitment well under way for October 2018.”

Derry City Council and Strabane District Council places skills development at the forefront of its plans for driving the local economy, in tandem with promoting third level education opportunities.

Skills Manager with Council, Tina Gillespie, said that the work being done by companies like BT is crucial to enhancing our workforce and progressing the aspirations for economic growth set out in the Strategic Growth Plan.

“BT is a business committed to the recruitment of local talent in Derry which hopes to offer people of all ages the opportunity to pursue not just a job, but a fulfilling career with a company that encourages its employees to climb the ladder by pursuing different roles,” she explains.

“Council is working very proactively with a number of education providers, private training organisations, careers service and companies such as BT, to encourage people to avail of apprenticeship opportunities that exist across the Council area.

“The promotion of apprenticeships is a key element of the education and skills outcome set out in the Council’s Strategic Growth Plan, encouraging young people to look at vocational options for training in their chosen profession through on-the-job training, study, an industry-recognised qualification and earning a wage.

“We are delighted to see people like Jennie making the most of these opportunities and hopefully her experience will encourage more young people to look at the many apprenticeship opportunities that exist across many sectors - from engineering and law to construction and fashion design.”

To find out more about how you can access information about apprenticeships and skills opportunities go to derrystrabane.com/

Anyone interested in applying for the upcoming apprenticeship scheme at BT can visit: www.btplc.com/careercentre/earlycareers/apprentices