DOWNPATICK SDLP area Councillor and the party’s local spokesperson on the economy, Councillor Dermot Curran has spoken out in support of Apprenticeship Schemes across the District.
Councillor Curran said: “The ApprenticeshipNI programme had initially been introduced to meet the needs of young people, adults and businesses. They offer quality work based training as an alternative to full time study, leading to nationally recognised qualifications which factor in Essential Skills (English and Maths at GCSE level). Apprenticeships are government funded training programmes at no financial cost to the organisation or employee. They deliver Vocationally Recognised Qualifications (VRQ’s) and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ’s) in a range of areas including Administration, Care, Childcare, Contact Centre, Customer Services, Management, Retail, Warehousing and Distribution.”
But expressing concern about the age qualifying criteria, he said, “From the end of August only those under the age of 25 will be eligible, which is wrong. It is incredibly short-sighted to cut apprentice training schemes in a recession. With our economy on the rocks and unemployment at its highest level in decades, government should be providing more schemes to encourage people into the labour market and to remain there rather than cutting programmes which re-skill and equip people in their workplace.
“With harsh welfare cuts on the way and the collapse of many of our local independent retailers, it is more important than ever for these apprenticeship schemes to be available to people of all ages – for both the business and individual.
Here in Down District I know of many individuals who have went through these programmes and the benefits that this has been to their livelihoods. We have many Independent Nursing Home providers in the area who have upskilled their employees which has offered them promotional opportunities which prior to these schemes would not have been an option.
It is imperative that this scheme remains in place and remains open to all age groups. By excluding anyone over the age limit is, in my option, ageist. I urge the Executive to re-consider their decision.”