Published Thursday, 06 September 2012
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During his first engagement, Prince Andrew visited Northgate Managed Services in Newtownabbey to meet with staff and apprentices involved in its ICT Apprenticeship Scheme.
The company is a leading provider of IT and cloud enabled technology services to the public and private sectors in the UK.
The Duke of York, who is the UK's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, was greeted by Mrs Joan Christie OBE, Lord Lieutenant of Co Antrim, and went on to meet Mr Andy Ross, Chief Executive, who accompanied HRH during the engagement.
The prince met with senior management and current and former apprentices to hear about the work of Northgate - the first IT company to launch an IT Apprenticeship Scheme in Northern Ireland.
He met current apprentice Ben Uprichard, who struggled to find employment in a sporting role and instead opted for the IT route with Northgate.
He also met Peter Kane, a former brick-layer who after completing the apprenticeship scheme is now in a permanent technical specialist role.
The scheme, supported by DEL, aims to provide an alternative route to employment for school leavers or those not attending university.
The company offers school leavers a direct route to develop a long-term career in ICT where they can 'earn as they learn.'
Northgate has over 80 employees across the UK who are current or former apprentices.
Prince Andrew later visited Northern Regional College in Ballymena to see how apprentices there are being trained.
The college holds the Centre of Excellence status in two areas - Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering and Construction and Built Environment.
The college's engingeering centre has partnerships with key employers, including Michelin, Toyota, Ryobi, Bosch, Wrightbus and Schlumberger, and provides tailored training provision to meet particular business needs.
The Duke of York was greeted on arrival by Alderman P J McAvoy, Mayor of Ballymena Borough Council.
He also met Ian Paisley Jnr, MP for North Antrim, Dr Stephen Farry MLA, Minister, Department for Employment and Learning, and Trevor Neilands, Principal & Chief Executive of the Northern Regional College.
He began his tour with a visit to the Toyota Academy, where he met with staff and students and heard at first hand how the academy ensures a focus on apprenticeship and adult training, with highly qualified technical staff and well resourced facilities.
He viewed the cutting edge technologies at the Centre of Excellence in Manufacturing Engineering and met with staff and students from the Michelin Technical Training Centre which is located within the Farm Lodge Campus.
Joanne Donaghey, a Level 3 Mechatronics Apprentice presented the Duke with a gift of a puzzle/pen holder which had been designed and manufactured in the Engineering Centre.