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Are Apprenticeships different in Northern Ireland?

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Apprenticeships in Northern Ireland is a work-based programme designed around the needs of employers. It offers recognised training and qualifications to new and existing employees aged 16 and over, across a wide range of apprenticeships. Funding is available, but terms and conditions apply if apprentices are 25 years or over.

Apprenticeships are open to both existing and new employees working within a Northern Ireland based company.

Requirements of apprentices?

- Be the minimum school leaving age in Northern Ireland

- Be employed or be about to take up paid employment as an apprentice with a Northern Ireland based company

- Be working a minimum of 21 hours per week (which includes time for 'off-the-job' training)

- Meet the entry requirements of their chosen occupation; some apprenticeships require, for example, General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSEs)

The same as in England, there are quite strict guidelines around the minimum employers should pay their apprentices. The minimum that apprentices are entitled to depends on their age and length of time on a programme. Starting at £3.90 per hour – if an apprentice is under 19 or in their first year – this rises to £6.15 in the second year for those aged 18 to 20, then to £7.70 for 21-24-year-olds, and then up to the National Living Wage of £8.21 if they are over 25.

Employers are free to pay above the new wage and many do so, but employers must ensure that they are paying their apprentices at least the minimum wage.

The average weekly wage for an apprentice is actually around £200, dependant on the sector, region and apprenticeship level. For example, some higher apprenticeships can pay as much as £300-£500 per week.

Those who do get paid the minimum might be eligible to receive benefits from the government on top of their wage: it’s worth exploring the funding options out there.

Higher Apprenticeships and Degree Apprenticeships often pay higher than the National Minimum Wage and National Apprenticeship Minimum Wage; a £16,000 starting salary, for example, with regular pay reviews just like a standard employee would receive. Some HIgher Apprenticeship employers pay as high as £23,000 per year. 

Employers are free to pay above the new wage and many do so, but employers must ensure that they are paying their apprentices at least the minimum wage.

For more information on apprenticeships in Northern Ireland, visit here.

The Northern Ireland Strategy on Apprenticeships

In June 2014, the Department published Securing our Success: The Northern Ireland Strategy on Apprenticeships.  This new apprenticeship system will be implemented by Autumn 2016. 

Some key points from this strategy:

- The completion of an apprenticeship will take at least two years. A minimum duration for apprenticeships will be a fundamental component in the new apprenticeship system. This is designed to ensure that apprenticeships include the substantial breadth of learning and development required for the job

- Apprenticeships will be open to everyone irrespective of age, with a primary focus on young people aged 16-24

- Government will establish links with partner countries across Europe, and internationally, to provide opportunities for placements and exchanges through exploring the use of EU programmes, such as Erasmus+ and considering incentives for participating employers.

For the entire strategy, visit here.  

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