Online project to enhance apprenticeships goes live

Online project to enhance apprenticeships goes live
June, 2021

As school leavers eagerly await their results and consider their future, a multitude of career progression pathways is available to them at their local Further Education College. South West College (SWC), in conjunction with the other five Further Education Colleges in Northern Ireland (NI), have collaborated to fully inform prospective students of their options by producing a package of resources to promote and enhance the immense range of apprenticeship schemes available within NI.   

Economy Minister Paul Frew MLA launched “Mentor Connect” on Wednesday 23 June, which is supported by the NI Apprenticeship Challenge Fund through the Department for the Economy and was awarded funding of £85k.  

“Mentor Connect” offers a range of online materials for both employers and apprentices which will strengthen relationships and ensure that apprentices gain the maximum benefit from their experience.  Employers can access a free online training module leading to a recognition as an Apprenticeship Mentor.  They can also explore an Employers’ Toolkit, which explains fully the NI Apprenticeship scheme. 
New and aspiring apprentices can access an Apprentice Toolkit, which provides them with the information needed to secure an apprenticeship job, to prepare them for joining the workplace and to make the most of their apprenticeship in order to build a career in their chosen area. 
Welcoming the development of the Mentor Connect resources, the Economy Minister commented: “Apprenticeships are a key part of developing the skills of our workforce in Northern Ireland, offering quality training and career progression. The Mentor Connect product will be a valuable tool to enhance the apprenticeship programme and I can see it will be of benefit to both employer and apprentice. These resources align with our commitment to encouraging employers to consider taking on an apprentice and offer accessible information and expert advice. I am impressed by the degree of collaboration between different teams in the six FE colleges in NI which has produced such an impressive project.  I am also pleased that funding provided through the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund helped with the development and implementation of this valuable initiative.” 
Christopher Robinson of South West College (SWC) added: “SWC works with local industry and business to support apprenticeships across 25 separate professional and technical areas. Apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity for employers to recruit and develop talent and for young people to gain high level training and professional and technical qualifications in their chosen career. Support from the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund through the DfE has enabled the colleges in NI to collaborate effectively to provide a range of resources under the umbrella of Mentor Connect to support both new and existing employers and apprentices.” 

Local innovative company Scott Ewing and Woodvale Construction are one of the many employers that work collaboratively with SWC via work-based apprenticeship programmes.  
Robert Ewing, Director of Scott Ewing and Woodvale Construction, said:  “Apprenticeships are hailed as the lifeblood within our business and give young people the training and qualifications they need to help get ahead within their chosen careers.  We value our longstanding relationship with South West College and are fully committed to further developing our apprenticeship programme. Mentor Connect and its package of resources will provide developmental opportunities for both the employer and the apprentice, helping enrich the apprenticeship scheme whilst supporting and developing the Northern Ireland Skills pipeline.”  


The Mentor Connect package of resources is now live and can be accessed, free of charge, via