People 1st secures Investors in People Gold Award again!

Directors Ronan Heenan and Bernie Daly, celebrating the Investors in People Gold Award
From left, People 1st Directors Ronan Heenan and Bernie Daly receiving their Investors in People Gold Award

We are so excited to announce that People 1st has achieved the Investors in People Gold Award for the tenth year in a row!! In a testament to our unwavering commitment to employee development and organisational excellence, People 1st proudly announces the achievement of the Investors in People Gold award, an award we are proud to have held consecutively since 2012. This remarkable accomplishment marks over two decades of being recognised as an Investors in People accredited business, demonstrates our steadfast dedication to fostering a workplace culture that nurtures talent and drives success.

 “There is an evident sense of pride working in the organisation, with your people feeling

that they are playing their part in success, what it wants to achieve and also

making a difference to wider society through providing future opportunities for

learners. “.

Investors in People report 2023

The Investors in People Gold Award

The Investors in People Gold award is a coveted recognition in the business world, symbolising our commitment to achieving high standards in people management and development. It acknowledges our outstanding efforts in empowering employees, fostering a positive working environment, and continually striving for excellence. The feedback from our inspection with the Investors in People team underscores our proactive approach to people management, a strong commitment to innovation, and a dedication to building on our success, with the Investors in People team witnessing that:

 “ The company is recognised as having a very proactive approach

to people management and development and a strong commitment

to innovate and improve, building on success achieved and to

innovate services and offerings for the future. “

Investors in People Report 2023
People 1st Directors were delighted to attend a local Awards ceremony to celebrate Investors in People
Directors Bernie and Ronan collected our Investors in People Gold Award at a gala event in Belfast

Our Journey to Success with the Investors in People Gold Award

Since 2012, People 1st has consistently demonstrated dedication to employee well-being and professional growth. This recognition is a testament to our ongoing efforts to create a workplace where individuals thrive and contribute their best. The Investors in People report highlights the strong connection and sense of trust with our senior management team, reflecting the real, sincere team ethos that is an integral part of the culture we have worked hard to build.

Reinforcing our company goals with this coveted award!

As we celebrate this achievement, we remain focused on our goals, including establishing an effective learning and development culture, ensuring everyone understands their role, and empowering our people to take personal responsibility for innovation and continuous improvement. The Investors in People framework evaluates us based on key indicators, and our success in maintaining the Gold standard speaks volumes about our sustained focus on these critical aspects of organisational culture.

 ” Your recognised expertise, quality and professionalism in the sector was commented upon by your

people as the key to your success. Equally important, is your genuine

people-centric culture that allows for flexibility, commitment, and hard work.

Your core values are therefore viewed as important and fundamental in

supporting day to day activities. “

Investors in People report 2023

Delighted to Receive the Coveted Investors in People Gold Award

The leadership and employees of People 1st are delighted and proud to have achieved the Investors in People Gold award for this tenth consecutive year. This accomplishment reflects the collective efforts of the entire organisation, from top-level management to every team member contributing to our success. In an era where attracting and retaining top talent is a competitive advantage, the Investors in People Gold award serves as a powerful endorsement of People 1st as an employer of choice.

 “ Thanks to all the staff who participated in this We invest in People assessment by completing the

survey or through individual discussions. The conversations were interesting

and it was a pleasure to talk to members of your team about their work. Particular

thanks go to Bernie Daly and all of the senior leadership team, for their

ongoing commitment to Investors in People. “

Investors in People Report 2023
Happy business people at the Investors in People Awards Ceremony in Belfast
Spot our Directors – happy recipients of the Investors in Gold People Award

Looking Forward to 2024 and beyond

As People 1st celebrates this remarkable milestone, we remain committed to our core values and principles that have paved the way for this consistent success. The Gold award is not just a recognition of the past; it is a springboard for the future. People 1st is poised to build on this foundation, leveraging the award to attract top talent, foster innovation, and maintain a workplace culture that inspires excellence.  This recognition not only celebrates past accomplishments but also sets the stage for a future where People 1st continues to thrive as a workplace where individuals flourish and contribute to the company’s ongoing success as one of our team members said themselves during the process…genuinely people come first and that is why we have developed really strong relationships that have helped this business adapt and grow”  

Business people gather in Belfast to collect their Investors in People Gold Award
The Investors in People team and recipients of all award levels, at the Gala event in Belfast

Congratulations to everyone involved in People 1st on this well-deserved accolade, and thank you for each team member’s communal effort. Together, let’s realise your ambition! Lets finish off with final words from the Investors in People team about this Gold Award

” Everyone should be extremely proud of the ethos, values, and culture within People 1st that have helped maintain this We invest in people Gold award. This achievement is all the more significant considering how the organisation and everyone within it faced unprecedented challenges as a result of the global pandemic. We wish you continued future success. “ 

If you would like to read more about the Investors in People Gold Award then here is a link to their website: and you can find out about this award and other awards such as the Deloitte Ireland ‘Best Managed Companies’ here:

Don Burns, People 1st Construction Centre Manager ( second from left) with Industry leaders across Northern Ireland

The construction industry in the United Kingdom and Ireland has always been a powerhouse of economic growth and development. However, in recent years, it has faced a unique set of challenges when it comes to attracting and retaining young, fresh talent. With an ageing workforce and a growing demand for skilled professionals, the construction sector must adapt to ensure a sustainable and vibrant future.

How prepared is Northern Ireland’s construction industry to meet the ambitions of 2050 and beyond?

That was one of the main questions posed at a recent roundtable discussion at the Construction Industry Training Board NI (CITBNI) and one that our Centre Manager for Construction Don Burns, was on hand to answer, exploring the challenges faced by the industry in getting young talent through the door and, more importantly, keeping them engaged and motivated to stay.

“In my experience, the challenge is more nuanced and centres more on retaining young people in the industry rather than that initial attraction. The attraction exists. A major government arm’s length body recently had over 480 applications to a call for six electrician apprenticeships. However, when we get young people into the industry, it can take between three to five years for them to qualify and earn an attractive wage. The reality is that in that timeframe, other industries and sectors can appear more appealing. If we want to have an industry that can deliver on future challenges, we need to improve the attractiveness of not only entering the industry, but the long-term benefits of staying there. ” Don Burns Centre Manager, People 1st Construction Training Academy
A heating engineer installing underfloor heating system
A heating engineer installing underfloor heating system

What other challenges do we face when trying to attract fresh talent to the Construction industry across Northern Ireland?

  • Perceptions and Stereotypes:
  • One of the primary challenges in attracting young talent to the construction industry is the negative perception that often surrounds it. Many young people still hold outdated stereotypes of construction work as physically demanding, low-paying, and lacking in opportunities for career growth. Changing these perceptions is crucial to drawing in fresh faces.
  • Lack of Awareness:
  • Many young individuals may not even consider construction as a viable career option due to a lack of awareness about the diverse and rewarding roles within the industry. Promoting construction careers through educational institutions and outreach programs is essential.
  • Skills Gap:
  • While the industry is keen to embrace new talent, there is often a disconnect between the skills required and those possessed by young job seekers. Bridging this skills gap through training and apprenticeship programs is vital.
  • Safety Concerns:
  • Safety is a paramount concern in the construction sector, and young workers may be hesitant to enter an industry with perceived higher risks. Ensuring stringent safety measures and offering comprehensive training can address this concern.
  • Career Progression:
  • Young professionals seek opportunities for career advancement and development. The construction industry must showcase clear pathways for growth, from entry-level positions to senior management roles.
  • Work-Life Balance:
  • Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is increasingly important to the younger generation. Construction companies need to consider flexible work arrangements and other benefits to accommodate this need.
  • Technological Adaptation:
  • The construction industry is rapidly evolving with the integration of advanced technologies like BIM, drones, and AI. Embracing these innovations can make the industry more appealing to tech-savvy young talent.
  • Mentorship and Support:
  • Creating mentorship programs and providing ongoing support to young workers can significantly boost retention rates. Offering guidance and constructive feedback helps them feel valued and motivated.
A construction site safety inspector.
A construction site safety inspector.

People 1st is a major contract holder locally in Northern Ireland for Construction training at all levels, from school leavers through to Level 4 Site Supervisors.

We work with a range of construction specialists to get staff certified and qualified in joinery, bricklaying and roofing at our custom-built training facility in CITBNI headquarters at Crumlin. We have a team of talented tutors, and Don the Centre Manager and his team of support staff, there to assist each student in achieving their goals- whether you are new to the sector and wanting to achieve a Level 1 City and Guilds qualification or whether you are an experienced site supervisor, needing their Level 3 or Level 4 qualification to renew their CSR Gold Card. We cater for a range of levels and expertise and our team is always on hand and ready to create a bespoke training package that suits your company’s needs, so reach out to Don and the team at our CITBNI Training Academy on 028 9030 3982 or email Don at [email protected]. You can also find out more about our construction qualifications here:

To read more about the round table discussion please find the link to the full article below:

What next for new talent in the construction industry locally?

Attracting and retaining young talent is crucial for the long-term sustainability and growth of the UK construction industry. By addressing the challenges of perception, skills development, safety, career progression, work-life balance, technological adaptation, and mentorship, the construction sector can create an environment that is not only appealing to young professionals but also fosters their growth and commitment. With concerted efforts, the industry can build a brighter future that benefits both the newcomers and the construction landscape as a whole.

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:


Apprenticeships have long been recognised as a valuable pathway to acquiring new skills, advancing one’s career, and boosting employability. Traditionally, these programs were often associated with younger individuals aged 16-24, looking to kickstart their professional journey. However, times have changed, and the doors to apprenticeships have swung open for individuals of all ages. The Department for the Economy’s ApprenticeshipsNI programme is leading the way, embracing a diverse pool of applicants. 

Expanding Horizons: No Age Criteria

Gone are the days when apprenticeships were exclusively for school leavers or young adults. Now, there is no age limit to who can benefit from these invaluable programs. Whether you’re in your twenties or your fifties, if you’re eager to learn, develop new skills, and enhance your career prospects, apprenticeships are open to you. This inclusive approach ensures that everyone has a chance to grow professionally, regardless of their age.

Our Areas of Specialisation

At People 1st, a proud provider of the Apprenticeships NI programme under the Department for the Economy, we offer a wide range of apprenticeship opportunities in ten specialised areas. These areas cover various industries, catering to a diverse set of interests and career aspirations. Here are the ten areas we specialise in:

  • Health and Social Care
  • Hair, Barbering and Beauty
  • Transport and Distribution
  • Hospitality and Catering
  • Business Administration and IT
  • Children’s Care Learning and Development
  • Construction and Building Services
  • Retail and Customer Care
  • Team Leading and Management
  • Finance

Diving Deeper into Apprenticeships

Now that you’re aware of the diverse fields we cater to, let’s delve into what an apprenticeship entails and why it’s a fantastic opportunity for individuals of all ages:

  • Hands-on Learning: Apprenticeships are characterised by learning on the job. This means you gain practical experience and skills directly related to your chosen field.
  • Earn While You Learn: One of the key advantages of apprenticeships is that you earn a wage while you’re training. This can help alleviate financial pressures while you pursue your qualification.
  • Industry-Recognised Qualifications: Successful completion of an apprenticeship often results in industry-recognised qualifications, such as NVQs, which can significantly boost your career prospects.
  • Mentorship and Support: You’ll have the opportunity to work closely with experienced professionals who can guide and mentor you throughout your apprenticeship journey.
  • Career Progression: Apprenticeships can lead to fulfilling, long-term careers. Many individuals who start as apprentices go on to become leaders in their respective fields.
  • Adaptability: Regardless of your prior experience or age, apprenticeships can be tailored to suit your needs and learning pace.
Would you love to support those in your local community

How to start an Apprenticeship with People 1st

If you’re interested in embarking on an apprenticeship journey, we encourage you to reach out to our dedicated team. Our experts can guide you through the application process, answer your questions, and help you select the apprenticeship program that aligns with your goals and aspirations. Whether you’re looking to enhance your current career or make a fresh start, there’s an apprenticeship opportunity waiting for you. Find out further information here and who to contact in your sector:

Apprenticeships are no longer reserved for the young; they are a universal path to skill development, career advancement, and personal growth. As a provider for the Department for the Economy’s Apprenticeships NI programme, we are proud to offer these opportunities to individuals of all ages. So, if you’re ready to take the next step in your professional journey, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team. Your dream career could be just an apprenticeship away.

Please find the Department for the Economy’s press release announcing the All Age Apprenticeships below:

The Department for Economy announcing the All Age Apprenticships with  two apprentices holding an Northern IreIand map cut out that says 'All Age apprentices on it. Surrounded by a manager and a representative from the Department.
The Department for Economy NI announced All Age Apprenticeships today across Northern Ireland

A warm welcome to the newest member of the People 1st team Michael Ward.

Michael is the new Barbering Tutor in our Belfast and Lurgan Training Academy salons and will be teaching across Level 1, 2 and 3 NVQ qualifications in Barbering.

You could rightly say that barbering is in Michaels blood as he is the sixth generation in his family to choose barbering as a career! Michael initially wanted to try out hospitality when he left school but soon realised that hairdressing and barbering was his true calling when he enrolled to study hairdressing in Belfast, aged 18.

This start in hairdressing gave Michael a fantastic grounding in scissor skills, colouring and styling and when cutting mens hair he quickly realised that where he really excelled and so his barbering journey really began… and what a journey that has been!!

On completion of his studies in Belfast, Michael returned to his home town of Banbridge aged 20 and just a year later had opened his own barbering salon! Michael knew he wanted to learn from the best so attended every hair trade show and competition to build industry knowledge and watch the best in the business practicing their techniques to a live audience, and then led him to take part in the same competitions himself across the UK and Ireland, winning a variety of prestigious hair awards-including the coveted NI Barber Championship and the All Ireland Barbering Championship in 2009 and 2010 respectively. He also won the L’Oreal Mens Image Award in London and was selected to be part of their specialist NI Hairdressing team at tthios time. All the top accolades that any professional would want!!

After achieving his goals of winning all these awards, Michael hung up his competition boots and set about expanding the business by opening another Barbers salon in Newry. He also became a father during this time and after years of working in the busy barbering business, he decided it was time for a change. By running private courses in salon over the years Michael loved teaching others the skills he had picked up over the the timing felt right to start sharing this knowledge with more students so he decided to move into teaching, with People 1st.

We are so lucky to have him join the People 1st team with the wealth of knowledge, experience and talent that he is bringing along with him and our students are going to benefit so much from this!!! We are so excited to see how the barbering training goes from strength to strength and his goal is to teach his students all the skills that he has picked over the years and how to approach the wide variety of ways you can cut, style and colour mens hair. These classes will be held across all levels and will be open to school leavers, apprentices and also private learners so DM us to find out more!!

We hope you all join us in wishing Michael a warm welcome to the People 1st team and keep an eye out for him in our Barbering Training Academies!!!!! We will be sharing stories from Michael and his students as we go along over the coming months!!

#newtutor #barbering #barbertutor #nihairandbeauty #nibarbers #barberingni #firstfortraining #belfast #lurgan #ormeauroad #coarmagh #moira #banbridge #magheralin #waringstown #portadown

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:

How our talented Joinery student Sé found success with the Apprenticeships NI.

People 1st apprentice Sé and his employer Seamus from Keenwood Joinery

Meet, Sé McCashin, (pronounced Shay) a talented People 1st joinery apprentice from Belfast, who joined our Construction Training Academy a year ago to study for his Level 2 Diploma and now his Level 2 NVQ apprenticeship. A past pupil of De La Salle College in Belfast, Sé knew that he wanted to learn a trade and after having studied Bench Joinery for GCSE, and although it took some persuading his parents agreed to let Sé attend People 1st, to go down the vocational route and train in the trade of joinery. As coming from a background where siblings were working in professions such as teaching, it was a challenge to get his family onboard with his dream to be a joiner, but Sé was determined to push himself and give it a go!

Starting with the Apprenticeships programme!

After joining People 1st, it became clear quite early in our journey with Sé that he had the skills and the focus and determination to go far. He listened, took instruction well and was very keen to progress and our joinery tutor Dean and Construction Training Academy manager Don, knew that he had the drive and ambition to become a great joiner. Incidentally our joinery tutor Dean, was also an apprentice with Keenwood so this almost is coming around full circle with Dean also teaching Sé weekly alongside the work at Keenwood. 

That is a great thing about an apprenticeship as it is a work based programme where the apprentices spends the majority of their time with the employer to learn ‘on-the-job’. As part of Sé’s apprenticeship for example, he comes one day a week to train with People 1st in our hands on Construction Training Academy in Crumlin, and the rest of week Sé spends with his employer Keenwood Joinery, a specialist local joinery contractor, that specialises in high end joinery projects for a range of high profile clients across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Find out more here about our training and Apprenticeships:

Sé working on site at the new School of Management Construction Project in Stranmillis, Belfast

This current project showcases these high end skills perfectly as Sé, alongside the Keenwood team, are currently working on a range of bespoke joinery finishes within the custom built Queens University Management School- part of the Riddell Hall complex in Belfast. QUB Management School is one of the top business schools in the UK and Ireland and prides itself on offering a world-class range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in Accounting, Economics, Finance and Management. The proposed building will extend and enhance the Riddel Hall campus and contribute to the on-going success of the Queen’s Management School located at the site. The expansion of the School will ensure that it is fit to serve the changing educational needs of a rapidly growing postgraduate community, who will prove invaluable to the progress of the Northern Ireland economy.

This project is being undertaken by established and respected local building contractors Felix O’Hare and as part of the internal finishing, there is a lot of beautiful woodwork and panelling, which the Keenwood team are responsible for. Director of Keenwood Joinery Seamus Keenan is delighted to being working on such a prestigious and landmark project in Belfast, which will showcase the talents of their team greatly and aligns with current project standards from the company on display on their website

An artists view of the impressive facade of the newly constructed School of Management, part of Queens University Belfast

As part of this apprenticeship Sé has early starts on site, just off Stranmillis village at 7am sharp to get going for the days work ahead and he is always prompt and on-time which is a great thing for any employer to see “ as it shows he is organised, has a great work ethic and lets us know that he is taking his apprenticeship and the opportunity that it brings seriously” says Seamus. “ We are really delighted with the progress the Sé is making and he has fast become a valued member of the Keenwood team “. What sort of things would Sé been working on during a typical week at Keenwood joinery- he can cut out and fit complex ironmongery, he can set door frames and hang doors, he can cut and fit complex wall panelling, as well as do 1st fix stud work and set out, cut and fit decking along with soft wood and hard wood trims. Sé is more than capable to read and understand construction drawings and complete complex items of work. 

How to get the most out of your joinery apprentice experience:

Sé too understands the benefits that working in a talented team like Keenwood brings his skills too – as with a workforce comprised of highly skilled craftsmen, they are at the top of their game and Sé is able to learn so many key techniques- “ the team are amazing and they always take the time to show me things properly, they make time to show me how to do it the right way from the start and this has really helped my skills come on greatly, they have been very welcoming since i joined Keenwood and I enjoy picking up new things from them every day on site” 

Ray Sloan, a master craftsman and one of the experienced members of Keenwood has been great at showing Sé the technical skills of the trade and this has helped Sé progress so much on site as Seamus, Ray and the team know that everything they put into Sé’s development is returned ten-fold “ having an apprentice is an investment and it does take time to teach them and interact and bring them along but with Sé’s approach to work and his pleasant,  ‘can-do’ attitude, he really is every employers dream apprentice. I would take another 10 apprentices on if they were like Sé”  explains Seamus, which really is a testament to the standard of work and also importantly the positive attitude that Sé brings to site each day.

We were able to visit the site today and see the Keenwood team at work behind the scenes and be able to see the incredible  business school project in the flesh. It really has some beautiful architectural features, which the lovely wood accentuates perfectly, and it is really going to be a stunning project once it is completed. 

What lies next for Sé? Well Seamus is really keen for Sé to progress even further onto a Level Three NVQ qualification next with People 1st and this may even open up more projects for Sé over in London, as Keenwood regularly work  across the water on larger corporate projects, via their London office in the bustling hub of the big city.  Sé was also nominated for an Apprentice of the Year in the 2023 Awards and we will have to wait to next month to see if he is successful at that!! Whether he wins it or not, Seamus is convinced he is one of the best, and at only 18 years of age, as well as being the youngest on site, he is one of the best apprentices to pass through the Keenwood doors “ In my 45 years of construction experience and having tried well in excess of 100 apprentices, I can honestly say that Sé is the most accomplished of them all. He is intelligent, reliable, hardworking, willing to learn, capable beyond his years, good hands and understands the construction process. Sé is now a key member of our team and without a doubt will become a master craftsman.”

This is high praise indeed coming from a successful entrepreneur in the construction sector, such as Seamus, and it is clear that Sé has a really bright future ahead of him-  through the apprenticeships programme, Se’s investment in himself and his learning, the investment by the Keenwood team in teaching Sé and also the tutors and support staff at People 1st, we can echo what Seamus said and it is clear that he will be one of the futures shining stars in this master craftsman trade and we are sure that great success lies ahead!

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!

We are delighted to launch a new Agrifood Academy in partnership with Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council. This is for residents of the council area and there are 20 places up for grabs on this new and innovative course that will help fast-track your way into agrifood employment!Please read below to find out more about the specific criteria and good luck to all applying!!

𝐀𝐫𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐨𝐫 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐚 𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐠𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐬𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐨𝐫? 🚜🌱🍎

Get the support, training, and confidence you need to make this move today on the latest Rapid Response Employment Programme.

With 20 places on offer, the new Agrifood Programme includes:

👉Bespoke training for a range of roles and career pathways; from food preparation and production to team leading, driving, farm working and more.

👉 One-to-one mentoring support, job matching, CV, and interview support.

👉 Industry site visits, career taster opportunities and the chance to hear from local employers and people working in the sector.

👉 Individual personal assessment and development plan tailored with support you need including Level 2 Award in Food Safety and Hygiene and Manual Handling.

Eligible applicants must:

👉 live in the borough of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon

👉 be unemployed, working 16 hours a week or less, or at risk of redundancy

👉 be interested in exploring a career within the agrifood sector.

Applications are 𝐍𝐎𝐖 𝐎𝐏𝐄𝐍.

To apply, please complete a registration form here:

or for more information, please contact People 1st on 028 3833 7000 or email [email protected].

Applications close at 5pm on Tuesday 06 December 2022.

𝐋𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐥 𝐚𝐠𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐞𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐨𝐲𝐞𝐫? Help us shape this programme so it meets your needs by getting in touch with us on the above contact details!

This initiative forms part of the ABC Labour Market Partnership.

ℹ️ Find out more here: