Further education training opportunities for your business
How further education (FE) courses can develop your employees' professional skills and bring measurable benefits to your business
The six further education (FE) colleges in Northern Ireland are the main providers of professional and technical education and training.
To date, a range of programmes have been delivered by the FE sector to address the skills needs of inwardly investing or expanding businesses through the Department for the Economy's Assured Skills programme.
- Games Academy (Southern Regional College, South West College and Northern Regional College)
- Animation Academy (South West College and Belfast Metropolitan College)
- Automotive Panel Building Academy (South West College)
This guide highlights the range of FE courses on offer and the benefits they may bring to your business.
Staff and business development: further education courses
The further education colleges in Northern Ireland offer a wide range of accredited and bespoke courses that can be tailored to your specific needs
Further education (FE) colleges in Northern Ireland offer a range of accredited and bespoke courses that can be tailored to the specific needs of your staff and business.
Further education courses can be delivered at a time and place to meet the demands of your business in order to assist your company with staff development. Further education courses can help your employees learn new skills or enhance existing skills that can lead to innovation and business growth.
Further education courses
Courses on offer at each of the further education colleges include:
- Higher Education Degrees
- Foundation Degrees
- Higher National Diplomas and Certificates
- Higher Level Apprenticeships
- BTEC Diplomas at Level 1 and 2 and Level 3 Extended Diplomas
- Apprenticeships and Training programmes
- Professional and technical training
- Bespoke training for businesses
- Essential Skills - Numeracy, Literacy, ICT
- ESOL - English for Speakers of Other Languages
To find out more about the achievements of the six further education colleges, download the leaflet on Northern Ireland further education colleges (PDF, 424K).
Further education: skills development programmes
List of FE skills development programmes in Northern Ireland
There are a range of further education (FE) skills development programmes on offer.
InnovateUs is a skills development programme, funded by the Department for the Economy and delivered across Northern Ireland by the six FE colleges.
The programme is designed to encourage and promote opportunities for small businesses and FE colleges to work together. In particular, the focus of the programme is to enable small businesses, with fewer than 50 employees, to acquire the skills necessary to engage in innovation activities. The programme offers up to 60 hours of bespoke training and skills development support, normally delivered over a six month period.
By gaining these skills, small businesses can then exploit innovative opportunities or undertake additional forms of innovation, which will contribute to growth and development.
Skills Focus is a skills development programme funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE) and delivered across Northern Ireland by the six FE colleges.
Skills Focus aims to support, promote and facilitate collaborative working between business and FE colleges, in order to provide tailored skills provision to small to medium enterprises with fewer than 250 employees. The purpose of Skills Focus is to meet business needs by increasing the skills levels and employability of the existing workforce to qualification level 2 and above.
Connected is an initiative between the six Further Education colleges, Queen's University Belfast, the Ulster University and the Open University in Northern Ireland to help businesses and the wider community to improve their performance by providing access to a broad portfolio of knowledge and technology support services.
Connected makes available academic expertise and resources that can bring measurable benefits to a business. It aims to develop interaction and stimulate innovation to benefit local companies and the Northern Ireland economy by encouraging, easing and increasing potential knowledge exchange links between academia and industry, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises.
Innovation Vouchers provide up to £5,000 of funding support for small to medium-sized businesses in Northern Ireland to help them to innovate, develop and grow. Funded by Invest Northern Ireland, the Innovation Voucher enables companies to seek knowledge and expertise from colleges and universities.
Typical projects include:
- ideas for new or improved products, processes and services
- product and service testing
- access to information and expertise on new materials
- tapping into research and scientific expertise
Product development and innovation is at the heart of growth but often needs costly technology support. Previously known as Fusion, Innovation Boost can provide that support by helping to fund a high calibre science, engineering or technology graduate and partnering you with a third level institution with specific expertise.
The graduate is employed by you and is based in your company throughout the project (12 – 18 months) with mentoring from the academic partner and InterTradeIreland Innovation Boost consultant.
- 18-month support package - worth up to £56,000/€67,900 typically in the area of new product/service development
- 12-month support project - worth £39,000/€47,400 typically in the area of process improvement
Foundation degrees are higher education qualifications mainly delivered in local colleges which combine academic and work-related learning.
Higher Level Apprenticeships
A Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA) is a workplace training programme which includes a combination of on and off the job training. The HLA programme currently offers qualifications from Level 4 up to Level 7, with FE colleges mainly delivering at Levels 4 and 5. The majority of approved HLAs are at Level 5 (Foundation Degree) with some offering Level 6 (Honours Degree) and Level 7 (Master's Degree). HLAs may be available in the future at Level 8 (Post Graduate Award).
This is an all-age programme, with the apprentice in employment from the first day, and off the job training provided through the six local FE colleges, CAFRE or the three local universities.
Higher Level Apprenticeships are available in areas such as accountancy, digital marketing, applied industrial sciences, engineering, computing infrastructure, software engineering, building services, renewable energies, food and drink manufacture with many more to come.
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships
The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme helps businesses to innovate and grow. It does this by linking them with a university and a graduate to work on a specific project.
Each KTP is a three-way partnership between a business, an academic institution and a graduate. The academic institution employs the recently-qualified graduate who works at the company. The graduate, known as the 'associate', brings new skills and knowledge to the business.
A KTP can last between 12 and 36 months depending on the project and the needs of the business. It is part-funded by a grant. The amount businesses need to contribute is different for SMEs and larger companies.
ApprenticeshipsNI is a workplace training programme which includes a combination of on and off the job training. The ApprenticeshipsNI programme offers vocational qualifications at Level 2 and Level 3, and is delivered by all FE colleges and a network of non-statutory training contractors.
The apprentice is in employment from the first day on the programme, which is open to new employees, or those moving to a new job role. All ApprenticeshipsNI frameworks are open to those aged 16-24, with a number of frameworks in priority economic areas also available to all ages. Off the job training is provided through the six local FE colleges or a non-statutory training contractor.
Apprenticeships are available in a wide range of occupational areas such as electrotechnical, food and drink manufacturing, engineering, hospitality, plumbing, health and social care, construction and many more.
Entry to Management Programme
The Entry to Management Programme is designed to speed the development of graduate managers to help them become more productive within their organisations.
The programme, delivered over 24 weeks by South Eastern Regional College, aims to provide good well-qualified managers who can make a lasting contribution to the increased productivity of a business.
Read more about this programme and other leadership and management training in Northern Ireland.