Minister opens Apprenticeship Challenge Fund

Economy Minister Diane Dodds today announced that her Apprenticeship Challenge Fund is open for applications.

Successful applicants could receive one-off awards of up to £50,000, with proposals with multiple partners or features potentially receiving up to £100,000.

The Minister said: “I am determined to do all I can develop an effective skills pipeline to support the needs of both employers and our economy while, at the same time, providing valuable employment for our young people.

“That is why I am pleased to announce the opening of the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund today. It will support innovative approaches and new collaborations to increase apprenticeship opportunities in Northern Ireland.”

The challenge fund, which the Minister announced earlier this month, is designed to support increased participation in the Northern Ireland apprenticeship system. Each proposal will be assessed and awards will be made for potential new apprenticeship models and pathways.

Successful applicants could receive one off awards of up to £50,000, with proposals with multiple partners or features potentially receiving up to £100,000.

The Department will use the evaluation of successful proposals to inform longer term approaches to support apprenticeships. It will also assist with the mitigation of the impact of Covid-19 on the skills pipeline.

The Minister added: “I encourage all organisations with an interest in the Northern Ireland apprenticeship system to consider making an application to the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund. This is a unique opportunity to encourage the development of new, innovative apprenticeship models and pathways, and promote collaboration to increase employer confidence within the Northern Ireland apprenticeship system.”

The scheme opens for applications today (28 September 2020) and will close at 4pm on 23 October 2020.

Earlier this month, the Minister announced Apprentice Recovery Packages which offers up to £3,700 of support, per apprentice, to employers who return an apprentice from furlough and retain them until they have completed their apprenticeship. It will open at the beginning of November.

She also announced her Apprenticeship Recruitment Incentive initiative which offers support of £3,000, to employers, for each new apprenticeship opportunity created between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

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