THIS year marks the 20th anniversary of the formation of a successful local training organisation with sites in both Larne and Ballymena, serving the areas of Larne, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Antrim, Newtownabbey and Ballyclare.
Larne Skills Development and Ballymena Skills have been delivering both apprenticeship and programme-led apprenticeship training in engineering and business administration over the past two decades under the dual directorship of local men Laurence Wilson and Malachy Delargy.
During this time the organisation has grown from an initial staff of five to having 18 employees and has built partner relationships with more than 60 employers in order to provide young people with opportunities to gain relevant and challenging employment.
Director Laurence Wilson sums up the aim of the organisation as being “one of delivering a high quality education and training service appropriate to the lifelong learning needs and aspirations of our trainees”.
Laurence, one of the few survivors of a recent air crash whilst travelling to deliver training in the Cork area, also takes pride in saying that “most of our trainees who complete their training gain full-time employment”.
Co-director Malachy Delargy added that “as well as delivering accredited apprenticeships and training in partnership with our employer base, we have also been pro-active in developing and delivering specialised courses of training to meet specific employer needs”.
Aligned to their vocational training, trainees can also avail of the services of various youth support agencies and career advisors and are given training in personal development and employability skills.
As the centre manager, Cathy Maguire, points out, “The development of the person is an important goal for us in addition to assisting the trainees to gain vocational qualifications and employment”.
This was demonstrated in the recent success of Ionel Tudosa from Romania who, from amongst more than 10,000 apprentice trainees throughout the Province, came runner-up in the Personal Achievement Apprentice Award ceremony hosted by radio celebrity Stephen Nolan at the Europa Hotel in Belfast. This prestigious award was presented by the then Minister for Employment and Learning, Sir Reg Empey.
Another type of success is the number of former trainees who have gone on to build up their own business.
One such is Nial McGarel, who trained at Larne Skills and is now an employer himself. Nial is keen to pay tribute to the part that Larne Skills Development have played in his career advancement.
“They gave me the skills, motivation and encouragement that enabled me to make the transition from being an employee to becoming an employer,” he said.
Currently there are more than 100 young people embarked on a range of training programmes covering Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Welding and Fabrication, and Business Administration. A new programme of training in Customer Services is also due to be launched in the autumn and plans are afoot to further expand the staffing, accommodation and facilities.
Local MLA and Minister of Finance, Sammy Wilson, who recently paid a visit to view the Larne premises and gave a talk to the trainees on the rights and privileges of voting, congratulated Larne Skills Development and Ballymena Skills on reaching their 20th anniversary, wished them continued success and added that he looked forward to them bringing their planned future vision of training services to the local community to fruition.