Top 6 I.T Apprenticeships in Northern Ireland

Apprenticeships in Northern Ireland 

Apprenticeship programmes have been on the increase across Northern Ireland over the past couple of years due to their fantastic success rate and positive feedback from both apprentices and their host employers. 

Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to gain experience as well as qualifications whilst earning a salary. Apprenticeships can be a great option for those considering a career change but are unsure on whether to commit to full time study. By being around other industry professionals, and learning on the job, you are given an opportunity to try out a career for yourself, without having to commit to expensive courses and training schemes beforehand in order to get considered by a potential employer. 

Northern Ireland is brimming with apprenticeship opportunities thanks to programmes such as Apprenticeships NI which works in association with the 6 Further Education organisations to make apprenticeships widely available. There are also many apprenticeships that are organised ‘in house’ through large, often tech focused, companies which you may find are advertised independently on their own websites or job sites such as indeed/NIJobs. 


What is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a programme that combines full time work with part time study, to enable the applicant to work and gain industry experience, whilst working towards a relevant qualification. Most apprentices attend their placement four days a week, where they learn practical skills, receive mentorship and feedback and gain transferable skills. The remaining one day of the week is then spent in college on a ‘day release’ where you cover theory relevant to your industry of choice, that you can then apply when back in work. 

The main difference between an apprenticeship and other forms of employment that include on the job training, such as a traineeship, is that participants must be paid by their employer. Wages can vary based on the type of apprenticeship you’re doing, as well as previous experience and age. There is no such thing as an unpaid apprenticeship, whether it’s a government run or an in-house programme every apprentice must receive an appropriate wage as well as be given the opportunity to complete a relevant qualification alongside their working hours. 


What types of apprenticeships are out there?

Currently, there are three different types of apprenticeships available in Northern Ireland: Level 2 Apprenticeships , Level 3 Apprenticeships  and Higher Level Apprenticeships (Level 4-8).

The majority of apprenticeship programmes normally last two years. Each ‘level’ of an apprenticeship, represents the level of qualification the apprentice will receive upon completion. For example, somebody doing a level 2 apprenticeship in I.T, will receive a level 2 certificate in I.T if they successfully complete all of their coursework and assessments. Level 2 certificates are equivalent to 5 GCSEs, therefore level 2 apprenticeships are commonly taken up by teenagers looking to enter the workforce while they learn, as the minimum age requirement for an apprentice is 16. 

The same applies to level 3 apprenticeships. These may have higher entry requirements, as a level 2 apprenticeship may not require you to hold a number of GCSEs, whilst a level 3 will very likely require 5 GCSEs or essential skills in English and maths.

Higher level apprenticeships on the other hand, usually require you to hold at least 3 A levels or a level 3 certification. This is because the standard of education provided is higher, as higher level apprenticeships vary between level 4 all the way up to level 7, with level 4 being the most common. These types of apprenticeships are perfect for those looking for a career change, but eager to make money while they learn also. 

The type of apprenticeship you choose, as well as the amount of hours you work and what age you are all impact the legal minimum wage you can expect over the duration of your apprenticeship. Level 2 & 3 apprenticeships, are obligated to pay all apprentices at least an apprentice wage, which are the current moment in time is  £4.30 an hour. If you are 19 years old or older, your employer will be required to give you a pay increase from the apprentice wage to your minimum living age during the second year of your placement. 

Higher level apprentices on the other hand, aren’t restricted by the apprenticeship wage. All applicants have to be paid a minimum living wage for their age, or more if they posses skills that the employer finds particularly appealing. That means that people doing higher level apprenticeships, can often negotiate pay rises based on their performance. 


Are apprenticeships worth it?

Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for people to make money while they study, without having to look for part time jobs which are unrelated to their field. Think about it – many university students often work part-time jobs unrelated to their career goals over the duration of their course. Apprentices are given an opportunity to grow and develop within their chosen field as well as gain valuable experience when working towards their qualification meaning many are able to jump into professional full-time positions post the completion of their apprenticeships or continue developing within their placement companies. 

Apprenticeships are also free meaning you will not be faced with any education related debt once you gain your qualification. With Universities across Northern Ireland costing around £4,000 per year, not including living costs, many students are faced with debt exceeding £20,000 after graduation. Those who complete higher-level apprenticeships can gain a similar level of qualification without having to take out student finance loans to cover the cost of their course. 

The I.T industry offers a fantastic range of apprenticeships in companies that pride themselves with great working cultures, development opportunities and growing salaries. We have outlined a number of I.T apprenticeships which are open now for applications:


1. Degree Apprentice Software Engineer – BT 

This is a 4 year higher level apprenticeship programme which will provide applicants with a full degree in Software Engineering. This is truly a win-win opportunity – work for a leading communications solutions organisation, priding itself for it’s great working conditions, employee perks and company culture, whilst getting a degree in software engineering for free.

Find out more here: 


2. Higher Level Apprenticeship, BSc in Computing Systems – CME Group 

Another fantastic higher level apprenticeship offering a full undergraduate degree in Computing Systems upon completion, awarded by Ulster University. This apprenticeship will rotate applicants around the company’s different technology teams every 6 months to give them an opportunity to explore the different areas in I.T that they could specialise in. 

Find out more here:


3. Higher level Apprenticeship in Cyber security and networking infrastructure – Belfast Met

This apprenticeship is a perfect opportunity for those with an existing HND (level 5) or relevant qualification to re-train or specialise within the cyber security field. Upon completion, you will receive a level 6 certificate in Cyber Security and Networking Infrastructure. Delivered on a part time basis, this is a fantastic opportunity to get your foot through the door of one of the best paid industries around. 

Find out more here:


4. Higher level apprenticeship in Cloud and Application Development 

Always fancied yourself as an app developer? This apprenticeship will be perfect for you. The two and a half year apprenticeship will give you valuable experience in the cloud and application development as well as data analytics, and give you the skills necessary to enter the I.T workforce in a breeze. 

Find out more:

5. I.T level 3 Software Development Apprenticeship – Belfast Met

This is a fantastic entry level apprenticeship providing all successful applicants with a level 3 qualification in I.T upon completion, alongside essential work experience. There is no better way of gaining an understanding of all core areas within I.T and exploring the field to find out what really makes you tick. Once completed, you will easily be able to enter your preferred field of interest whether it might be cyber security, front, or back end development.

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6. Level 3 Apprenticeship in Networking Infrastructure

This level 3 Apprenticeship is another brilliant entry level opportunity for people to learn more about the I.T industry through extensive theory and work placement. With core modules covering computer networks, cyber security, fundamentals of IT, computer systems – hardware and software and IT technical support, all apprentices will have a wealth of knowledge that they will be able to utilise to specialise in their I.T area of choice.

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