Economy Minister Diane Dodds today welcomed the allocation from the Executive of £23.1million to address issues brought about by Covid-19.
The Minister said that £17.2m would be used to encourage employers to retain and recruit apprentices while the remainder would be used to support safe resumption of learning in further education colleges and for the direct payment of meal allowances to around 1,900 eligible FE students.
The Department is currently developing an apprenticeship recovery package which will incentivise the retaining of current apprentices and encourage the recruitment of new apprentices.
The Minister said: “My department is developing an apprenticeship recovery package which will be bespoke to the needs of our local economy and will help to ensure that our apprenticeship system bounces back from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 crisis. I am delighted that my Executive colleagues have backed this through the allocation of funding.
“It is critical that we support apprenticeships, which are so important for developing the skills our employers and economy require and in providing valuable employment and high-quality learning for our young people, in particular.
“The role of apprenticeships in our economic rebuilding cannot be over-stated. We need a skilled workforce to drive forward recovery. I want to encourage employers to bring apprentices off furlough and back into work.
“And I want to encourage and support forward-thinking and innovative employers to look to the future by employing apprentices now. We need to offer our young people, career changers and those returning to work the opportunity and the support to upskill so they play their part in our economic recovery.”
The Minister added: “I am determined to do all I can to help our economy recover from the effects of this devastating pandemic. Today’s allocation allows me to move forward with some key initiatives, but I know more needs to be done. I will continue to work with my Executive colleagues in putting re-building a strong economy front and centre by supporting our business sectors and doing all we can to maintain and create as many jobs as possible.”
The Minister also welcomed funding to support the safe resumption of learning in further education colleges and for the direct payment of meal allowances to around 1,900 eligible FE students.
£5.5m of resource funding will provide for the safe resumption of further education delivery at campuses across Northern Ireland. An additional £0.4m will meet the cost to date of funding direct payment of Free School Meal Allowances into households of almost 1,900 eligible school-age FE students.
She said: “It is important that FE colleges are supported to welcome as many learners as possible to return to college and this funding will help enable this.”