Newry apprentice gives backing to Workplus campaign to provide 120 opportunities

Posted by
Friday, January 17th, 2020
Community, Jobs & Careers

Workplus has announced that it has created 120 apprenticeship opportunities with 28 employers in Northern Ireland and applications are now open.

Former St Mary’s High School pupil, Tess Kelly, from Newry, 23, is in the first year of a level 3 civil engineering apprenticeship with AECOM in Belfast.

She said she believes the opportunity to gain qualifications with no fees while getting paid to work is something that all young people should consider.

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Workplus, which helps employers develop talent through apprenticeships, estimates that almost £8m will be earned by the successful candidates over the period of their apprenticeships, some of which will last up to six years, with the possibility of permanent jobs.



Those successful will take up positions at companies including Farrans, Translink, Atkins, Liberty IT, Jacobs and McAdam Design in the autumn to gain on the job training in career areas including engineering, construction, IT, administration and accountancy.

Workplus brings together employers, potential apprentices, colleges and universities to create apprenticeship opportunities and is supported by professional bodies.

Speaking to Newry Times, Tess said, “Through my apprentice, I work four days in AECOM and attend classes at Belfast Metropolitan College one day a week.

“My interest in apprenticeships was sparked by my brother who did an apprenticeship in joinery.



“After school I did start full time higher education study but it didn’t feel like the right route for me so I started working full time in a warehouse and later moved to a building supplies company.

“During that time I discovered the opportunities with Workplus which is perfect for me because it balances learning on the job with study.

“I love how I am helping to find solutions to real-life challenges at AECOM but I am also being given the tools needed to solve these problems from my tutors when I attend classes.

“A big benefit of the apprenticeship scheme is earning a decent wage while I work. I’d really recommend that any young person looks at the opportunities Workplus provides,” she added.



Richard Kirk, Director of Workplus, explained, “Many of the young people who are applying for Workplus Apprenticeships are telling us that full-time study along with the debt and career uncertainty at the end is not the right route for them.

“Our apprentices get real jobs, good pay with a starting salary between £13,500 to £19,000 depending on entry level, as well as access to training and professional networks that will transform their lives.

”Over the duration of their apprenticeships, we estimate that this year’s intake will earn almost £8m in salaries while avoiding around £750,000 of student debt from course fees which is good news for them, their parents and the wider economy.



“With a Workplus Apprenticeship, employers get bright, focussed and ambitious people who ensure their companies have the skillset needed to remain competitive. We believe that apprenticeships are the future of work and education,” he added.

Apprentices generally work four days a week and spend one day studying at local further education colleges and universities. Apprenticeships are available for applicants of all ages.

Jim Wilkinson, Director of Apprenticeships, Careers and Vocational Education at the Department for the Economy, said, “The Department is pleased to see 120 apprentice positions being made available, this year, in areas of economic significance.

“The Apprenticeship Programme enables apprentices to earn as they learn from the age of 16, gaining invaluable industry experience and provides a direct progression pathway to higher levels of professional and technical work.”



Applications for this year’s Workplus scheme are open until 28 February 2020 at


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