Farry launches a review of apprenticeships and training
Employment Minister Stephen Farry launched a review of apprenticeships and youth training, with the aim of building a training system "regarded as the gold standard across Europe", on 11 February 2013.
"I want to ensure that (apprenticeships) support the growth and rebalancing of the local economy and meet the specific needs of business for a highly-skilled workforce," he said.
Mr Farry added that a "false hierarchy" had developed between apprenticeships and the academic education offered by the universities.
"I want the review to examine how the apprenticeship pathway to a career can be seen as equal, or better, to the academic route," he said.
Turning to youth training, the minister said he wanted "to ensure that flexible and appropriate provision is available for all our young people; regardless of their starting point".
Unionist MLA Basil McCrea, who chairs the Employment Committee, asked how Mr Farry intended to address the problem of the loss of status of apprenticeships.
Referring to the German and Swiss apprenticeship systems, the minister said;
"We are very keen to learn what we can from that model."
Thomas Buchanan of the DUP was also keen on the German model.
Mr Farry said it would not be possible to simply drop the German strategy into Northern Ireland.
The SDLP's Pat Ramsey raised the problem of high levels of youth unemployment.
The minister said he concurred with the Foyle MLA.
"We need to engage with young people themselves and address their needs," he said.
Phil Flanagan of Sinn Fein sought assurance that the voluntary and community sector would be adequately represented on the expert advisory group.
The DUP's Robin Newton was not happy with the description of the review as "short, sharp and focussed".
"We're not going to sit back and take years doing this," Mr Farry replied.