NI apprenticeships could narrow skills gap

Businesses in Northern Ireland predict a skills shortage, according to research by Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The survey found that 79% of employers anticipate a growing need for skilled workers in the next 3 to 5 years. However, 59% are not confident they will be able to find the staff with the skills they need.

Two thirds of apprentice employers in Northern Ireland plan to increase their involvement in the scheme but many firms remain reluctant to take on an apprentice.

The survey found the top ways to encourage firms to employ an apprentice were:

  • creating programmes tailored to business needs (46%)
  • cutting red tape (38%) 
  • giving government grants directly to employers (23%).

Nigel Smyth, CBI Northern Ireland regional director, believes that apprenticeships could help narrow the looming skills gap.

"It's increasingly clear that Northern Ireland faces a shortage in skilled technicians in the years ahead, if we fail to create more chances for young people leaving education and for existing workers.

"Apprenticeships can help benefit the local economy but also tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.

"Northern Ireland has been a driving force in the UK's economic recovery and if we are to build on this, we need a highly skilled workforce to meet growing demand from local firms."