The Armagh City Hotel is thrilled to celebrate the recent successful completion of Level 2 NVQ Diploma programme, by two dedicated members of their Housekeeping team.

Armagh City Hotel Housekeepers, Ellie McManus (left) and Krisitana Caunane (right) with their NVQ Level 2 Diplomas in Housekeeping

The hotel has a long-standing partnership with People 1st, the program facilitator, and takes pride in aiding its valued employees’ professional progression through various industry-specific courses. The latest achievers are Housekeepers Ellie McManus and Kristiana Caunane, both receiving NVQ Level 2 Diplomas in Housekeeping.

Armagh City Hotel delighted with the achievements!

Regarding the girls’ accomplishments, Senior HR Advisor Siobhan Maxwell expressed her joy, stating,

” I’ve been so happy seeing the girls complete their NVQs – both girls have worked exceptionally hard on their course with their People’s 1st tutor Colleen. We started working with People 1st last year, and we have had eight employees, including managers part take in different qualifications. Completing these courses as you work has been amazing, People 1st have been so flexible with working around the girls’ work schedule. All classes and assessments take place during working hours and that has been a huge draw for our participants as some may not have the option to complete a qualification outside of working hours “

The new All Age Apprenticeships will also be so positive for the hospitality sector as it will allow employees who were outside of the age criteria to take part now in an Apprenticeship and gain a qualification, as Siobhan explains:

 ” When the girls commenced the course, apprenticeships were only open to 16-24 years olds, however, apprenticeships now have no restrictions and are open to all ages, so we are hoping to offer NVQ programmes across all age groups within the hotel to existing and new employees. The courses can be tailored to each participants individual needs, depending on their current role and what they see their role developing into through additional optional modules. Providing these courses for our existing and new employees is our way of supporting them in developing their careers with us.”

Management team of Armagh City Hotel toasts to great success!

General Manager Henk Compier echoed the sentiments, presenting Ellie and Kristiana with celebratory Prosecco to mark their achievements. Henk emphasised his pride in the girls and their growth over the past two years, attributing it to the course’s impact on their confidence and skills within the hotel.

“We are so proud of Ellie and Kristiana on the completion of their NVQ’s, both girls have been with us just over two years and in the last year in particular their confidence has increased immensely, that I believe is down to participating in the course – the knowledge and the skills they have gained from the course has helped them tremendously in their roles within the hotel, I can see both of them progressing through the ranks within the hotel.” 

The team at the Armagh City hotel really feel that the difference has come from the fact that the training is able to be undertaken during working hours while the team members are able to earn while the learn and allows them to gain a qualification while they are gaining solid experience and a salary too, helping to alleviate some of the pressures that come with a return to studying!

“That is the reason we work with People’s 1st in delivering these courses, on the job training and development is so important, however, this course and the subsequent qualification has given both girls unmatched knowledge and confidence. Once again, I am so proud of them both.”

General Manager Henk Compier

Onwards and upwards at the Armagh City Hotel for the girls!

Both Kristiana and Ellie are so delighted to achieve this qualification and know that it is a great step on their career path and are looking forward to implementing everything that they have learned over the past year. Commenting on her experience of the course, Kristiana said: 

” It was different because I didn’t know you couldn’t do something like this with work. Our tutor Colleen from People 1st, created such a bond with us and there were things that I didn’t know going into the programme and now I do so it’s nice to know that I have this foundation now for the future.”

Kristiana’s department colleague and classmate Ellie shared a similar experience, stating:

“It was such a new experience. I was learning things that I thought I knew already, but I didn’t. We had a great tutor and created a bond and it was actually really nice. The NVQ Level 2 is better for the future. If I wanted to move on or move up in hospitality it will help with that.”

You can find out more about the Armagh City Hotel on their website and you can also find out more about the wide variety of Hospitality NVQ’s that you can do with People 1st, on our website

In conclusion, both Ellie and Kristiana’s success stories underscore the hotel’s commitment to employee development through tailored courses, fostering confidence, and knowledge crucial for career progression.

We are delighted to announce this exciting Support Services Employment Academy with Mid & East Antrim Labour Market Partnership, created for council residents wishing to work in Health & Social Care.

Would you like to work in Health and Social Care? Join our Academy today!

Fast Track your way to working in the Care sector!

Always wanted to help others and work in the Care sector but weren’t sure how to go about it, or maybe you have no experience and need a bit of support with the interview process? Then this 5 day FREE Support Services Employment Academy course will be a fantastic starting point for you!

Starting on Monday the 27th of November, our helpful and supportive Academy team will take you and other candidates through our specially created programme to fast track your way into employment within this in-demand sector.

What is the Support Services Employment Academy?

It is an enjoyable employment programme created to assist those new to the Health and Social Care sector, by giving you a great insight into the roles available and the care you might give in these various job roles. Over the 5 days of the Support Services Employment Academy you will have access to our specialist training created specifically to give you a strong overview of what you need to work in the care industry. We will provide you with support and mentoring to gain employment and you will gain access to our database of employers who have live vacancies across the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council area with full time, part time and casual contracts all available to start now!!

Mid and East Antrim Support Services Academy team member working alongside an elderley man in a care in the community role
Help those living in your community with a range of employment opportunities in Care

What do you learn during the 5 days on this Support Services Employment Academy?

What will the 5 days cover?

  • Working in Care: An exploration of the diverse range of career pathways within the social care sector.
  • Introduction to Care Standards, RQIA and The Social Care Council
  • Values and attributes, underpinning principles, and standards of practice
  • Consolidation of online learning module on confidentiality: Information Governance and Cyber Security
  • Meet the employer – Guest speaker from care sector outlining what they look for in an employee

What are the benefits of taking part in this Support Services Employment Academy?

Benefits to taking part in this Support Services, Health and Social Care Academy?

  • A chance to improve employability
  • Guaranteed interviews with employers
  • Access to industry standard vocational training
  • One to one mentoring support for the duration of the programme
  • An introduction to the sector and an insight into the range of job roles available

We have also videos and case studies from past participants from various Academies on our website here: so please visit this link to find out more and hear how life-changing it can be!

Work in Health and Social Care with Mid and East Antrim and help those in need locally!
Help in the home roles as well as various other settings within Health and Social Care

Who can apply for the Support Services Employment Academy?

You must be over 16 years of age and living in the Mid and East Antrim areas to apply for the Support Services Employment Academy. Preference will be given to those who are economically inactive, long- term unemployed or under-employed (working less than 16 hours).

How to apply for the Support Services Employment Academy?

For registration and further information please email Kim from People 1st at [email protected] or [email protected]

You can also find further information about the Mid and East Antrim Labour Market Partnership and their employment initiatives here:

Make that first step today, and apply for a place on this Academy

Tina, aged 47 from Ballymena, took part in a past Support Services Employment Academy- hear what she had to say about her experience!

Tina, 47, from the Ballymena area had been unemployed for 3 years but unfortunately had to leave her job due to medical conditions. She really wanted a job which helped people and supported them to live a better quality of life. Tina had over 10 years experience working in a special needs role and knew that her passion lay in working with individuals who needed extra assistance and support, to help them lead full and independent lives.

Tina saw the Mid and East Antrim Employment Academy advertised in the local paper and thought it would be a good opportunity to try and re-enter the employment market.

Tina was assigned a Mentor from People 1st, who contacted her to chat through her employment goals. It became obvious that she had some concerns regarding her medical history and coming back into employment. Tina’s mentor spent time chatting to her about both physical and mental health concerns, reassuring her that these were challenges that could be overcome. Tina was nervous as she had had a very bad experience in her workplace previously and this negatively affected her mental health. This had left her worried about references and how she would be able to move beyond that experience.

Tina stated “ I thought due to my past experience I wouldn’t get good references but after speaking to People 1st, I was reassured and my mind was put to rest and here I am working with three great references.’’ After reassuring Tina that these where areas which could be overcome, she became more motivated to gain employment in the Health and Social Care sector.

Tina attended the academy with People 1st which boosted her confidence and helped her understand the basic principles of care work. Tina was supported to apply for work and prepare for interviews. Tina successfully gained an offer of employment from a local nursing home and is now undertaking her NVQ Level 2 with People 1st, while working in her new job.

“I’m so glad I contacted people 1st, it’s been a great experience. The support from the One to One phone calls, Zoom meetings, the emotional support, help with interview techniques and being encouraged to think I can do this!!!. I love how it’s given me confidence to get out working again. I really love working with people again and has given me confidence and I really enjoy my work. Thank you to everyone in People 1st”

Tina, Ballymena- Past Mid and East Antrim Academy Participant

So if you are sitting at home, reading this and thinking you would love to do something like Tina then please reach out and get in touch with us today, as we would love to help you through our Support Services Employment Academy, achieve a rewarding career in caring, like we did with Tina.

Email Kim at [email protected] today and we will be in touch to secure your spot!

We are thrilled to share William and Patrick Magennis’ remarkable success with Belfast City Council Upskilling Academy and People 1st. The brothers have achieved an outstanding milestone in their careers with the support of Belfast City Council’s Upskilling Academy and their employer, Kids Together Belfast.

Success with Belfast City Council Upskilling Academy for Patrick and William Magennis
Twin Brothers Patrick and William Magennis with Brenda (left) People 1st Director and Diane (right), Kids Together Belfast.

William and Patrick, who share a genuine passion for working with children with special needs, embarked on their professional journey as support workers with Kids Together, a local organisation specialising in early years, after-school programmes, youth groups, and adults with complex needs. The Magennis brothers initially completed their Level 3 qualification in Health and Social Care through the Apprenticeships programme with People 1st, all while gaining valuable hands-on experience working alongside the dedicated team at Kids Together.

Journey to success with Belfast City Council Upskilling Academy

When the opportunity arose to participate in the Belfast City Council Upskilling Academy, William and Patrick seized it eagerly. Having advanced from support worker to team leaders in their organisation, they were keen to further their careers in supervisory roles, and the academy provided them with the perfect pathway to achieve this goal

Following their successful completion of the academy and achieving their Level 5 qualification in Health and Social Care, we are thrilled to announce that both of these talented brothers have been promoted to supervisory positions at Kids Together. This is a fantastic opportunity for career progression, not only for William and Patrick, but also for their employer, as they will benefit greatly from this achievement too.

As an organisation and on a personal level we are so proud of William and Patrick and how far they have come. Their commitment to upskilling, with the guidance from People 1st staff, whilst working full time is a credit to them both. Kids Together are very fortunate to have William and Patrick as part of our ever growing team and the skills and knowledge gained from the Level 3 and 5 Health and Social Care have empowered them to become super supervisors and mentors for their teams.

Pamela Hughes, Manager, Kids Together Belfast
Success with Belfast City Council Upskilling Academy for Patrick and William Magennis
Back in 2021 when Patrick and William achieved their Level 3 in Health and Social care with People 1st during the pandemic.

A life-changing career move in the right direction

As Patrick explains, he feels that this training is his real vocation in life as he enjoys it so much and has had a brilliant journey up to this point:

After leaving school, I went to work as a classroom assistant in special needs and found my passion! After completing my Level 3 in Health and Social Care, I was delighted to be able to progress with Belfast City Council and the Up-skilling Academy to gain my Level 5 Management qualification.  I feel that a clear career path has been opened to me by completing this Academy and after up-skilling, I have been able to take on a higher-level management position at Kids Together. Supporting young people with disabilities is extremely rewarding and I want to encourage and support other young males to consider this pathway as a career

Patrick Magennis, Supervisor, Kids Together Belfast

This success with Belfast City Council Upskilling Academy that the brothers have enjoyed has gained them a promotion and will really help propel their career forward with Kids Together Belfast. The support extended by Belfast City Council, at no cost to either participants or employers, underscores its potential to foster professional growth within your organisation, equipping team members with the skills to benefit both the employer and the children under their care. It is a positive initiative for all involved as Councillor Clíodhna Nic Bhranair, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee said: 

It’s fantastic to hear of the success William and Patrick have had after completing our Upskilling Academy. We’re passionate about supporting our residents to develop the skills they need to secure quality employment in the city. We’ve made a commitment in The Belfast Agenda to support inclusive growth by providing free training, enabling people to apply for roles they otherwise wouldn’t be equipped to do. And Belfast’s children are also benefitting – particularly those with Special Education Needs. Congratulations William and Patrick – we wish you every continued success

Councillor Clíodhna Nic Bhranair, Belfast City Council
Belfast City Council Upskilling Academy
Success with the Belfast City Council Upskilling Academy

We extend heartfelt thanks to Belfast City Council and the Kids Together Belfast team for their unwavering support of this incredible and life-changing initiative. Keep an eye out on our social media channels for news of upcoming up-skilling academies, as we anticipate more inspiring success stories like this one!

Congratulations to William and Patrick, and we all wish them the very best on their future pathways! 

If you would like the opportunity for further career success with Belfast City Council Upskilling Academy, like Patrick and William, then please visit the following link to find out what current opportunities are available for further training through the Belfast City Council Employment Academies:

We have a whole section dedicated to the Academy programmes we offer on our website where you can hear from other past participants: . If you would like to find out more about Kids Together Belfast and the incredible service that they offer local families then please visit their facebook:

Working with Children and Classroom Assistant Employment Academies for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council residents are now open for applications!!

We have exciting news for you of two new Employment Academies taking place in the coming months.

If you would like to work alongside children and play an important role in their growth and development then do not miss this incredible opportunity to fast-track your way to success! Applications are NOW open for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council residents to sign up to one of two NEW Employment Academies taking place over the coming months:

  1. Classroom Assistant Employment Academy
  2. Working with Children Employment Academy (Childcare)

These Employment Academies are running in partnership with the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Labour Market Partnership

They have been created to give unemployed or underemployed*  local residents the opportunity to retrain in these in demand sectors! Each Academy will focus on useful things specific to that sector so read on to find out more as we break down what each academy will focus on: 

Classroom Assistant Employment Academy: 20th -24th November 2023, 10-1pm online

Classroom Assistants: Nurturing Learning in Schools 🏫

👩‍🏫 Supporting teachers from P1 to Yr.14.

📝 Aiding with curriculum delivery and assignments.

📚 Assisting with classroom management and administrative tasks.

Working with Children Academy: 27th November- 1st December  2023, 10-1pm online

Childcare and Playwork Settings: From Early Years to After School 🎈

👶🧒 Serving the 0-5 age group and after-school up to P7.

🎯 Focused on developmental play and socialisation.

🏡 Informal and flexible settings for fun and learning.

classroom assistant academy places are now available
Unemployed or Underemployed? can offer you a place on our latest classroom Assistant Academy with Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.

Over these 5 days the People 1st Academy team will help prepare you so you can make the move into employment. On both courses we will take you from complete beginner to give you an insight into what things you need to know when working with children or as a classroom assistant! Our friendly team will help put you at ease and fast-track your knowledge of what the job entails, and help prepare you for questions you might get asked at upcoming job interviews! 

Then… at the end of the week…fresh with your new knowledge and skills, we will then help introduce you to employers with vacancies ready to fill, and give you the best chance of getting that job you really want!!

Lots of past participants of these academies have gone on to secure employment- and you could be next to take advantage of this life changing opportunity!

“I found The People 1st Academy course very worthwhile and a great opportunity to further my skills “

 “This Academy by People 1st gives me the chance to have a real career”

Quotes from past Academy participants

Each path offers unique experiences and opportunities. Which one resonates with your career goals? Let’s explore together!

If you fulfil the criteria listed above and would like to apply for this Working with Children or Classroom Assistant Employment Academy programme, then please register your interest with our team today on our quick and easy application form click below:

We are expecting demand to be high! If you have any questions please email our Employment Academy specialist Cathy McGarvey on [email protected] or call Cathy on 07999 023 291

You can read more about Employment Academies on our website , where you will find some FAQ’s and case studies about past participants there:  

*This academy has been specifically created for those who are unemployed or working 16 hours or less, and not in full-time education or training, to help fast-track the way to employment within this in-demand sector.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Labour Market Partnership
The ABC Labour Market Partnership Employment Academies have been created to help address labour shortages in the area

You can find out more about the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council here: and more about the Labour Market Partnership in ABC Council:

At People 1st, we believe in empowering women to achieve their career goals, and that’s why we’re excited to introduce our Female Focus Academy in partnership with Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council Labour Market Partnership, and we want to help your local community by getting females into employment today! 

We are here to help with getting females into employment within the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council area.
Let us help you get back into employment after a career break!!

People 1st are ready and focused on getting females into employment!

In today’s world, there are still challenges that many women face when it comes to finding their path in the workforce or returning to work after a career break. 

Let’s dive deeper into this exciting initiative and how it can help you chart your path to career success.

Breaking Down the Female Focus Academy:

Our Female Focus Academy is a platform designed to provide tailored support and mentoring to women in the Armagh, Banbridge, and Craigavon Council area. Whether you’re a recent graduate looking for your first job, a stay-at-home mom seeking to re-enter the workforce, or simply someone who’s in need of a career change, this program is here to guide you every step of the way.

  • Personalised 1:1 Mentoring: We understand that every woman’s journey is unique. That’s why our program offers one-on-one mentoring tailored to your specific needs and aspirations.
  • Confidence and Motivation Support: Building confidence is key to achieving your career goals. Our dedicated mentors will work with you to boost your self-esteem and motivation.
  • Financial Guidance: Before accepting a job offer, it’s essential to understand the financial implications. We provide guidance to ensure you’re making informed decisions.
  • Short, Accredited Courses: Our program offers short courses that are not only convenient but also accredited, helping you gain essential skills for your desired career.
  • Job Search Assistance: Looking for the right job can be daunting. We offer valuable job search assistance to streamline your efforts.
  • Interview Support: Nailing that interview is crucial. We provide interview coaching to help you shine in the spotlight.
We can help recent female graduates also looking help into employment on our programme
If you are looking for your first Graduate role after University, then we can help you!

Why You Should Join our Employment Academy?

Why You Should Join:

Our Female Focus Academy is more than just a program; it’s a community of women dedicated to supporting one another on their career journeys. We believe in your potential and are committed to helping you achieve your goals. By joining our program, you’ll gain access to a network of like-minded women, empowering you to thrive in the workforce.

How to Apply:

To apply for our Female Focus Employment program, simply fill out your details here:

and Maria, our dedicated People 1st team member for this programme will be in touch to guide you through the process. If you have any questions or queries before applying then Maria will be happy to help guide you so please contact her on [email protected] or call Maria directly on 07847 807 903.

At People 1st, we believe that every woman deserves the opportunity to excel in her chosen career path. Our Female Focus Academy is your gateway to career success, offering the support and resources you need to achieve your goals. We invite you to join us on this empowering journey towards a brighter future. Let’s make strides together and get onto a clear pathway to success!

We are here to help all ages-getting females into employment is the main focus of the programme and the People 1st team is ready to support your career needs.
If you have been a carer for loved ones, and unable to work- we can help you get back to a job you will really enjoy!

Please find the programme flyer attached below where you can click to read further detailed information about the programme, and how our team can help you on this exciting new initiative for employment. You can also browse our Academies page on our website that tells you more about how the employment academies work and read some past testimonials too!

Exciting news for female residents of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council with the announcement of a new Classroom Assistant Academy.
Exciting news for female residents of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council

Over the last number of years, People 1st have been working closely with local Councils and employers across Northern Ireland to deliver a range of bespoke training solutions called ‘Academies. The latest People 1st Academy has just been announced for residents of the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council area, who would like to start a new career as a Classroom Assistant.

Fast-track your way to a new career as a Classroom Assistant in the Lisburn Castlereagh City Council area.

This exciting 5 day online course, that will help improve employability along with interview, communication and teamwork skills, leading to a guaranteed job interview with a local employer.

Are you?

☑️ a female resident of the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council area

☑️ interested in becoming a classroom assistant

☑️ out of work or working less than 16 hours per week

…then this upcoming employment training academy is for you!

Open to ALL ages and FREE to attend, it’s an ideal place to start!

Over the 5 day course, we will take you from complete beginner to feeling prepared to apply for jobs in this sector. We will give you a great introduction into the the role of a classroom assistant and our friendly team will help put you at ease, fast-track your knowledge of what the job entails, and give you lots of helpful hints and tips to prepare you for interviews!

Then at the end of the week…fresh with your new knowledge and skills, we will introduce you to employers with vacancies ready to fill, and give you the best chance of getting that job and further training that you really want!!

How do I apply to take part in this Classroom Assistant course?

We expect demand to be high for this academy, so don’t delay! If would like to start a new path with People 1st today, then please contact our in-house Academy specialist Michael Carson on [email protected] to apply as we will close the applications at 5pm on Friday 22nd of September.

“I found The People 1st Academy course very worthwhile and a great opportunity to further my skills “

Past participant

You can also visit the academies section of our website to find out more and read some case studies from past participants:

For full eligibility and criteria, please visit the Lisburn and Castlereagh Labour Market Partnership online here:

Together let’s realise your ambition…of becoming a classroom assistant with People 1st and Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council

#people1stni #lisburnandcastlereagh #lisburn #classroomassistant #classroomassistanttraining #academy #5daycourse #newjob #nijobs #employmentopportunities #lisburncity

information about the Ramore chef academy school, the left side shows chefs plating up food and the right of the flyer lays out the benefits you get from attending the 4 week course

Are you ready to turn your passion for cooking into a sizzling career? Look no further! The Ramore Chef Academy is here, and it’s bigger and better than ever before! If you’ve ever dreamt of donning a chef’s hat and creating culinary masterpieces, this is your golden ticket.

Here’s everything you need to know about The Ramore Chef Academy:

When: The Chef Academy kicks off on Monday, October 2nd, 2023, and runs until Friday, October 27th, 2023. Get ready to spice up your life for four thrilling weeks!

Time: We know you’re eager to dive into the world of gourmet cooking, so our academy runs from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday. It’s a full immersion into the culinary arts!

Where: All the magic happens at the stunning Ramore Restaurants, located at 1 Harbour Road, Portrush, Co Antrim BT56 8DF. Prepare to be inspired by the breathtaking seaside views as you hone your culinary skills.

Deadline Alert: Don’t miss your chance to be part of this culinary adventure! The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Monday, September 25th, 2023. Time is ticking, so don’t let this opportunity simmer away.

Master Chefs at Your Service: Our training is in the capable hands of People 1st, renowned experts in culinary education. You’ll learn from the best to become the best!

Why Choose Us?

At the Ramore Chef Academy, we take pride in transforming food enthusiasts into culinary maestros. Here’s why you should choose us for your culinary journey:

Hands-On Experience: We believe in learning by doing. Get ready to roll up your sleeves, chop, sauté, and plate your way to becoming a pro chef.

Elite Instructors: Our team of instructors brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table. They are dedicated to shaping you into a top-notch culinary artist.

Inspiring Location: Located in picturesque Portrush, our academy offers you the chance to train in a beautiful coastal setting. The ambiance alone is sure to ignite your creativity!

Internship Opportunities: The Ramore Restaurants are more than just a training ground; they could be your future workplace! We offer internships to our standout graduates.

Networking Galore: Rub shoulders with industry professionals, make lasting connections, and get a taste of what the culinary world has to offer.

Ready to Take the Plunge? Become the next NI masterchef!!

Apply now by clicking on the link below to embark on the culinary adventure of a lifetime:

Ramore Chef Academy Application Form|:

Learn More: For additional information about the Ramore Chef Academy, check out our webpage:

Ramore Chef Academy Webpage:

Don’t let your culinary dreams simmer away on the back burner. Join us at the Ramore Chef Academy and let your passion for food sizzle into a rewarding career and follow us on Facebook to hear about more opportunities in your area for similar academies as we make announcements regularly across our Northwest Facebook page- click the facebook link below.

Did you know that People 1st are hospitality and catering training specialists?

We offer a wide variety of training courses across Northern Ireland for various roles within hospitality and training, so if you work in this sector or are an employer then please reach out to our team as we would be really happy to help get your staff certified at a range of levels, across a range of courses. You can check out some of the courses that we offer here:


Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Christina Black hosted a celebration event at City Hall today for 52 Belfast residents who have successfully completed the first ever Classroom Assistant Employment Academy with People 1st and the Academy team.


Congratulations to all who completed the Classroom Assistant Academy, some of whom are pictured here with Lord Mayor Tina Black

Held over five days, and made possible with funding by the Labour Market Partnership, Belfast City Council’s Classroom Assistant Employment Academy has exceeded all expectations, with 13 academy graduates already securing employment, and the remaining candidates going forward to interview in the coming weeks.

Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Christina Black explains: “Our Classroom Assistant Academy is helping to meet the demand, that Belfast schools are currently facing, in relation to recruiting entry level teaching support staff. We’re also providing a direct link to a new talent pool of entrants into the education sector, and we are meeting the employers’ supply demands for vacant roles, whilst also supporting our residents to develop the skills they need to secure quality employment within the city’’. 

“In addition to this we’re meeting our Belfast Agenda commitments and supporting inclusive growth by providing free training to enable people to apply for roles they otherwise wouldn’t be equipped to do. Thanks to this new academy, people can enter the labour market, perhaps for the first time, or people who’ve been unemployed for a long time are getting the support they need to re-enter the workplace. Belfast’s children are also benefitting – particularly those with Special Education Needs.’’

With the help of Labour Market Partnership and Belfast City Council funding, those who gain employment will also complete a six-week OCN Level 3 course in ‘Working with Children and Young People with Special Needs’ and have the opportunity to start a NVQ Level 3 in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools this month. These qualifications will help learners to progress from an unqualified classroom assistant position to a qualified role which offers improved terms and conditions, permanent contracts and better pay. 

Brenda Kernaghan, Director of People 1st spoke about how delighted the team is with this first pilot scheme for Belfast City Council residents.

” At People 1st, our overall aim is to help each participant to achieve their employment goals by providing individual tailored support. We work closely with local employers, creating strong industry networks to provide the much-needed employment interventions and to fill local skill shortages and employment gaps “

People 1st has been facilitating academies on behalf of the Council since 2018, in the areas of childcare, playwork & Health & Social care. There are two distinct academy strands: Employment Academies – for those who are unemployed or working 16 hours or less per week and Upskilling Academies – for those who are already working but want to advance in their career by gaining a qualification.

To date the People 1st Academy Team has assisted over 900 council residents to find employment or upskill within their current role.

Whilst speaking with local schools, the challenge of recruiting classroom support staff continually raised its head.The demand for the role of classroom assistants has trebled over the last decade and is set to treble again in the next decade, this is applicable to both mainstream the special needs sector.

Without the support of a classroom assistants many children cannot access the support they need, they and reach their full potential. Classroom Assistants often provide additional literacy and numeracy support and embeds support given by other interventions such as speech therapy, physio and occupational health.

Both Belfast City Council and the Labour Market Parnership are committed to reducing educational inequalities for all children across the city, especially for children with additional needs. Since January this year, 52 participants have participated on the academy, which involves tailored workshops, one to one employment support and mentoring. 14 individuals have secured employed with the remaining candidates are going forward to interview in the coming weeks.

The feedback from the participants and schools has been exceptional and the job outcomes to date is testament that this rapid response model is successful. It is heart-warming to hear individuals relay their appreciation for assisting them to enter the labour market for the first time or helping them return to work and equally as great to hear how rewarding they are finding their jobs and in particular, working with the children.

With the help of Labour Market Partnership and Belfast City Council funding, participants have also been provided with the opportunity to complete a Level 3 Vocational qualification or an OCN NI Level 3 in Working with Children with Special Needs.

All the team have no doubt we will be hearing of some great up-skilling stories over the coming months, some of the participants have mentioned aspirations of teaching, university courses and specialist support services.

We would sincerely like to thank the Economic Development team for always being open to new interventions and responding to the need of the local environment, the Labour Market Partnership team and the Department of Communities for funding this initiative. We would also like to warmly thank the People 1st Academy team who worked so hard in the last two months to oversee this pilot scheme.

We wish the participants all the best for moving forward in their careers and thank them for putting their trust in us and taking the step of moving into employment! This is a massive courageous step and we have no doubt that your journey hasn’t ended here but will continues to flourish!

For information on how to apply for a future Employment Academy, go to or also visit the Academies page on our website linked here:

The People 1st Academies team of Jonny, Michael and Ruth are gearing up for a busy start to the new year. January 2023, will see not one, not two, but six different employment academies running in partnership with local councils across Northern Ireland. All with the same aim- of helping participants accelerate their route to employment within a variety of sectors.

If you are unemployed or working less than 16 hours a week and not in full time education or training then you are normally eligible to take part and by giving up a week of your time, you can really make a difference in your life and get onto a great career pathway. Each academy normally lasts five days and over this time, the academy team will help deliver helpful information about the jobs available in each sector, the skills that are useful for each role and also help prepare you for interview in an enjoyable and supportive process. We have received amazing feedback from those who participated in our academies during 2022 and we cannot wait to help more people during this coming year.

“The People 1st Academy helped me find a place in a hard-to-break-into industry and the help I have gotten has helped me pass the exams that I have had”

Past HGV Academy Participant

We offer academies across a range of sectors from Childcare to Classroom Assistant, Health and Social Care to Hospitality and HGV, but best to check the upcoming dates section of our academies page here: to find out more as all dates and times are listed here, and here you can also find further eligibility information on who can apply, and which council are you have to be a resident of to take part, as they are normally open to residents of each individual council area.

Our academies page also has some great case studies from past participants which will give you a feel for how signing up to these simple 5 day courses , can really transform your life and open the door to some fantastic employment opportunities with a range of local employers. If you have any questions or queries about any of the upcoming academies listed on our page then please contact Ruth Ozel on [email protected] and she will be very happy to help answer any questions you may have or get you signed up!! Feel free to also fill out the contact form here:

Have you always wanted to get into HGV driving or are you looking for a new career pathway, then why not apply to our latest HGV Academy and fast track your way to a new career as a HGV Driver with Antrim and Newtownabbey Labour Market Partnership.

This HGV employment academy has been specifically created for those who are unemployed or underemployed and living in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council area, and it has been set up to address issues within the local logistics sector- where there is an immediate need for HGV drivers.

The Antrim and Newtownabbey Labour Market Partnership, together with People 1st are helping address this need by training applicants from the council area, and helping them to gain their HGV licence )Class 1 or Class 2, through this highly popular HGV driver programme.

Let us help you get back into work and help the local logistics sector fill urgent vacancies, by fast tracking your way to a new career in logistics! This course will also introduce you to local employers with current vacancies to fill! Past applicants from other council areas have had a fantastic experience:

“So far I found training easy to do and communication has been great. I am doing my theory and I am waiting to do my practical. People 1st has made it really easy to understand and help me get my licence”

It is an incredible opportunity so please act now to secure your space. Applications are now open so don’t delay, apply today by getting in touch with our HGV specialist Michael Carson by emailing [email protected] or calling 028 9030 3981.

Wishing all candidates the best of luck!