Global expert outlines apprenticeships return on investment
Employment and Learning, Dr Stephen Farry, hosted a two-day visit to Northern Ireland by Professor Stefan Wolter, Chair of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) international Expert Group on Vocational Education and Training and a recognised global expert in apprenticeships.
Speaking during an employer breakfast seminar entitled “Employing Apprentices – Return on Investment” at Riddel Hall in Belfast, Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry said: “This is an opportunity for employers to hear a world-renowned expert speaker on how investing in apprenticeships can make a real difference to local businesses.
“In June, my Department published ‘Securing our Success, the Northern Ireland Strategy on Apprenticeships’, which recognises the clear business benefits of apprenticeships. They provide an excellent means by which employers can obtain the technical and employability skills they require, as well as being assured that there is a strong skills base across the economy.
“The new model puts employers in the driving seat by better matching supply with demand and providing opportunities in a much wider range of occupations.
“While carrying out research for the strategy, my Department looked at international best practice in professional and technical education and training systems, including the Swiss apprenticeship model which, through Professor Wolter’s research, demonstrates that the financial and non-financial return from apprenticeships against the employer’s investment is substantial.”
Professor Wolter shared his research on how apprenticeships can make real business sense, boosting profits and productivity. He also outlined his experience of the Swiss model for vocational education coupled with the Swiss low youth unemployment rates, an approach envied all over the world.
Professor Wolter said: “Our research has shown clearly that a well functioning apprenticeship system creates a win-win-win situation for learners, employers and the society as a whole. The advantages of the dual apprenticeship model from a Swiss perspective are the delivery of a qualified skilled workforce which meets the needs of the economy. Cost benefit analysis indicates that two thirds of apprenticeships in Switzerland yield a net benefit from the company during training.”
As part of his itinerary, Professor Wolter also visited Bombardier and attended a meeting with Minister Farry and key stakeholders involved in shaping the Northern Ireland skills agenda.
Professor Wolter is also Director of the Swiss Coordination Centre for Research in Education and Professor of Economics at the University of Berne.