Northern Regional College says apprenticeships may be the answer for students

James Blair is a professional cookery apprentice with the Galgorm Resort & Spa and Northern Regional College.

Although June usually signals sunnier days, for many students undertaking GCSE and A Level exams and embarking on the long wait for results, this month can bring about a great deal of stress and anxiety.

As the cost of going to university continues to rise, the commitment to a further three or four years of book learning can seem daunting and simply may not be the right next step for those who are ready for something new, a Northern Regional College press release says.

18-year-old James Blair from Ballymena has taken on the role of professional cookery apprentice with the Galgorm Resort & Spa and Northern Regional College.

James Blair was studying for his A Levels in Nutrition and Food Science, Life and Health Sciences and Applied ICT at Cambridge House Grammar School when he found out about the apprenticeships with Northern Regional College and the Galgorm Resort & Spa and jumped at the chance to get involved.

“I love the creativity that comes with being a chef, you get to make people happy with your food”, said James.

“So when I was given the chance to learn more and get hands-on experience in the kitchens of one of the biggest players in Northern Ireland’s hospitality sector I just couldn’t pass up that opportunity. It was a no-brainer for me.”

James decided to leave school after his AS-Levels and hasn’t looked back since: “I really enjoyed school and I had thought that afterwards I would maybe go on to catering college. However, this apprenticeship is a chance to get experience in the industry and offers me an immediate route into the career I love – why would I put that off for another year?”

“With the apprenticeship you get to earn while you learn, and you have no student loans to worry about paying back at the end.”

But most importantly, it’s the hands-on experience he has received throughout his training which James claims is most valuable:

“You can read in a text-book that a professional kitchen is a high-pressure environment, but unless you’ve been in there at peak dinner-serving time, you can’t truly understand it.”

James says he would “most definitely” recommend the apprenticeship scheme to someone else: “If you want to go into the hospitality sector, I honestly think it’s the smartest career move you can make.”

And his advice to them?

“Just go for it – you have nothing to lose and so much to gain.”

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