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Council trainees give thumbs up to earning while learning!

04 February 2020

Derry City and Strabane District Council is one local employer reaping the benefits from taking on apprentices and working proactively to get out the positive messages around apprenticeships, and the benefits and opportunities for those who choose to earn while they learn.

20-year-old Killian O’Neill and 17-year-old Owen Hughes, are both currently employed as apprentices with the Council and both agree that it is an excellent way of gaining nationally recognised qualifications whilst working alongside experienced mechanics and electricians in a real-life working environment.

Derry City and Strabane District Council is just one local employer taking part in Northern Ireland’s first ever Apprenticeship Week this week in an effort to demonstrate how apprenticeships work for individuals, businesses, communities and the wider economy. Apprenticeship Week, which is being co-ordinated centrally by the Department for the Economy and supported by Councils, education providers and training providers across Northern Ireland, runs this week from 03 to 07 February.

Encouraging school leavers and parents to seriously consider the apprenticeship route as a career option, Eileen McGrinder from the Council’s Skills section, said Killian and Owen are positive examples of how this is a viable pathway to gain qualifications and experience and earn a salary in their chosen vocation.

She said: “The Council is delighted to be involved in offering apprenticeships and work closely with Killian and Owen to offer them support and guidance throughout the programme. As an employer we also benefit from having them on board and providing them with the opportunities to learn and gain experience.”

Killian O’Neill hails from Top of the Hill area of the city. He is in his first year of a four year apprentice mechanic programme based at the Council’s Skeoge depot.

“I was disillusioned with school and felt that university was not for me. I have always been interested in engines and mechanics so it seemed the natural choice for me to look at becoming a mechanic. I am really enjoying the fact that I am earning while I am learning and really enjoy working alongside the Council team.”

Owen Hughes hails from the Strathfoyle area and is in year two of his four year electrical apprenticeship. He too, is enjoying the experience and benefiting from being able to earn while he learns.

Owen says school leavers who do not feel that university is the right option for them should seriously consider looking at apprenticeships. “It really does open up opportunities for you and gives you a better insight into the job.”

Killian believes that the real strength behind the apprenticeship scheme is the fact that you are working alongside experienced and fully trained co-workers. “In the Council garage there is a wealth of experience and all the mechanics are really helpful and patient with me. I ask a lot of questions and they take the time to show me.

“Every day is a learning curve and every day I learn something new. The experience that I have received to date is great and I really hope that this continues for the remaining period of my apprenticeship.”

Concluding, Eileen from the Council said the Council would continue to work in partnership with education providers, local businesses and training services, to actively promote and market apprenticeships across the Council.

A key element of that work will be to tackle some of the myths around apprenticeships and change perceptions around apprenticeships as well as working proactively to encourage young people, their parents, teachers and businesses to think outside the box when considering education and employment opportunities.

To find out more about what is happening in Derry Strabane for Apprenticeship Week visit – www.getapprenticeships.me.

You can follow Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Week 2020 on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag  #NIAW2020