ONE of Newtownabbey’s biggest employers has been praised by His Royal Highness The Duke of York for its dedication to recruiting and training young people.
During a visit to Northgate Managed Services on Thursday, September 6, Prince Andrew met with Chief Executive Andy Ross and Ed Brown, Managing Director of Operations, to discuss the firm’s successful apprenticeship programme - the first of its kind in Northern Ireland - and how similar schemes could benefit other businesses. He also met with several apprentices and former apprentices, and was keen to learn more about how Northgate provides IT solutions to a number of major clients across the UK and Ireland.
Former bricklayer Peter Kane (24), from Rathcoole, who completed his apprenticeship last year, now works as a Technical Specialist in the company’s Remote Desktop Team. He and apprentice Ben Uprichard were among those who met with the Prince.
“He asked us a few questions and we explained our experiences as an apprentice and as a former apprentice. He was really interested in the fact that you don’t have to be a graduate to work in IT, that you don’t need a university education,” Peter explained.
Twenty-year-old apprentice Remote Desktop Specialist Matthew Goodman from Whiteabbey added: “He (Prince Andrew) was asking about the apprenticeship scheme and about what our team does. He seemed very interested in the work we’re doing and was keen to know more about the clients we work with and what we do.
“We’d known there was a VIP of some sort coming for a while, but we didn’t find out that it was going to be Prince Andrew until this morning; it was a very good surprise.”
Former printer David Lockhart (27), an ICT apprentice, also enjoyed a chat with the Prince.
“He was very nice and seemed genuinely interested in the work that we are doing with our clients across the UK and Ireland,” he told the Times.
Addressing members of staff, Prince Andrew stressed the “incredibly important function” carried out by the workforce at Northgate. He emphasised the value of apprenticeships and praised the company for encouraging young people who don’t have a university education to pursue a career in the IT sector.
After joking that his visit had caused productivity to drop, he said: “Training and recruitment of young people is vitally important and I am extremely glad that you have been able to not only embrace the apprenticeship scheme, but also the way that you have done it and the way that you are encouraging young people to come into a business that is very technical.”
Before encouraging staff to return to work, HRH added: “I wish you all every success in your endeavours, and in looking after the very many different organisations you do. I wish all the apprentices every success and hope, not only that, but that the business continues to grow.”
The Prince’s visit to Northgate’s Church Road headquarters marked the continued roll-out of its IT apprenticeship scheme, which will see the firm recruit a further four trainees this year.
Check out more coverage in this week’s Times...