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Bright sparks required to address welding skills shortage

With the shortage of engineering skills well documented, an innovative initiative is being launched in the Lisburn Castlereagh area, to address specialist welding needs and develop a labour pool that is equipped to support local industry.

SERC has partnered with Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council and Lisburn based employers Fabrite, Spence Engineering, Spanwall, KME Steelworks and Environmental Fabrications to recruit and train engineers for the welding and fabrication industry.

The participating companies deliver a range of specialist services, ranging from light façade work, through to heavy plate and structural steelwork. The three-year fast track ‘Engineering and Fabrication Apprenticeship’ course is aimed at anyone aged 16 or over interested in a career in engineering including school leavers or people looking for a career change. No experience is necessary as training will be provided. Candidates will receive a wage and be matched to an employer.

SERC is currently recruiting applicants for the programme and is encouraging anyone interested in a career in engineering to apply.

SERC head of computing and engineering Trevor Breadon said: “The course has been introduced amid the increasing demand for welders and fabricators in Northern Ireland. As an accredited welding training centre, we have the latest welding and fabrication equipment required to train the next generation of engineers and I would urge anyone who is interested in a career in engineering to apply.

"The aim of the programme is to help match the skills of the workforce with the bespoke skills employers need. The partnership is a powerful demonstration of how the further education, government and private sector can work together for the benefit of the local economy and respond quickly to design a bespoke programme to fill a skills gap. SERC is committed to working with employers to ensure they have the skilled workforce they need, both now and for the future."

Alderman Allan Ewart MBE, Chairman of the Council’s Development Committee, speaking about the initiative, said: “The growth of local businesses is important to the Council and to work in partnership with them to ensure a strong skills base for local companies is an ideal opportunity for us and SERC.  As the Northern Ireland economy grows there will be an increased demand for construction and engineering projects and the Council wants those businesses based in the area to be able to tender for the work.  Staff numbers and qualifications will play a big part in this process and this project will help address this.

“The success of this project will require those businesses involved to give the students placed with them every opportunity to develop their skills, enhance their knowledge and undertake projects that will offer them good experience.  I would like to thank all the companies involved in the project and for working in partnership with the Council and SERC,” concluded Alderman Ewart MBE.

Kenny McAleenon from Fabrite explains: “All of the companies involved are very much looking forward to SERC’s Fabrication Apprenticeship getting off the ground, as the industry is experiencing a skills shortage. There has been a strong need for bespoke and up-to-date fabrication training, and rather than look further afield to recruit talent, we wanted to invest in the great people that’s on our doorstep.

“Through our collaboration with SERC, and Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, we want to try to build and hopefully sustain a pool of high quality talent that can not only support our business goals, but help the industry to compete globally. Providing a supportive working environment will be another of our key priorities, so that we can help apprentices fulfil their potential.”

On successful completion of the training, students will gain an industry recognised qualification and enhanced employment prospects to help them pursue a career in engineering.

The first year of the programme will be spent full time in college where candidates will complete a Level 2 qualification in fabrication and welding.   In years two and three, candidates will complete the Level 3 qualification through day release to their employer and spend four days a week in the workplace gaining hands on experience.  Applicants must be aged 16 or over and hold 5 GCSEs grades D-G (including Maths and English at grade D), or equivalent. No previous experience is required.  The training will take place at SERCs new welding and fabrication centre on the Dundrod Road in Nutts Corner – with transport being provided from SERC Lisburn to the centre.

To apply please submit your CV to Grace McBurney via email at gmcburney@serc.ac.uk by 12 noon Friday 13 October. For further details log on to www.serc.ac.uk/fabrication

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