What are Academies?

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’. 

There are two distinct academy strands:

  • Employment Academy – for those who are unemployed or working 16 hours or less per week
  • Up-skilling Academy – for those who are already working but want to advance in their career by gaining a qualification

These initiatives were created specifically to address local shortages within key industry sectors including Childcare, Health and Social Care, Hospitality and Logistics. By providing those unemployed or on low income with the opportunity to begin a career, or up-skill to progress further within one of the above sectors, we aim to support not only the individual, but also the local economy.

How do we do this?

We have a team of experienced mentors who deliver a variety of focused training sessions that together form the basis of each academy.  We provide tailored support, helping each applicant to achieve their employment goals. By working closely with local employers, we have created strong industry networks to provide the much needed employment interventions required Post-Brexit and Covid-19, and to fill local skill shortages and employment gaps.

To date we have delivered our range of past academies on behalf of the following local councils:

  • Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council – HGV Employment Academy, Classroom Assistant Employment Academy
  • Ards and North Down Borough Council- HGV Employment Academy
  • Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council- HGV Employment and Hospitality Academies
  • Belfast City Council- Health and Social Care, Childcare, Childminding, Classroom Assistant and Playwork Academies
  • Fermanagh and Omagh District Council- HGV Employment Academy
  • Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council- Classroom Assistant Employment Academy, Into Employment Academy
  • Mid and East Antrim Borough Council- Health and Social Care Employment Academy, Classroom Assistant Employment Academy
  • Mid Ulster District Council- HGV Employment Academy
  • Newry, Mourne and Down District Council- Health and Social Care Employment Academy, Classroom Assistant Employment Academy

The Employment Academies

Employment Academies are for you if you have little or no experience in the sector, as they will allow you to gain the essential skills needed to progress to employment.

They are available across Northern Ireland, in partnership with local councils and are offered in the following sectors:

  • Health and Social Care Employment Academy
  • Childcare Employment Academy
  • Playwork Employment Academy
  • Classroom Assistant Employment Academy
  • HGV Driving Employment Academy

The Employment Academies vary in length depending on the chosen sector but on average are delivered over a series of 5 day intensive workshops, specifically created to help fast track your way to employment. During the workshops, you will learn the introductory skills to help you adapt quickly to work in your chosen sector.  This allows you to find out what each of the various job roles  involves, in a relaxed manner, to ensure you know what is expected of you as a team member. You will be getting insight into the industry before deciding if it is right for you before accepting the job offer.

The Academy team will assist you with specific interview training, before introducing you to a panel of employers for guaranteed interview and will also support you with a further six months of ongoing mentorship. This has proven to be very effective in helping participants gain and sustain employment. There is also the possibility of gaining a further qualification through your employer if you meet certain criteria.

Overall it is a fantastic way to accelerate the recruitment process for both candidates and employers.

Employment Academies FAQs

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Employment academies are open to anyone:

  • living in the council area of the specific academy
  • unemployed or working under 16 hours a week
  • not in full time education
  • attending a university course of under 16 hours a week
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As these academies are designed for those who are new to the sector, there are no qualifications needed. Past experience can help, but it is not necessary.

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Depending on the role and employer, hours will vary. We will work with you to find the best fit whether you are looking for part-time, full-time or flexible contracts.

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Driving is preferable for some jobs but not essential to all posts.

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No- all academy training costs are covered by the council and there is no cost to the applicant or employer.

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Send an email to the academy team on [email protected] and one of the experienced and friendly team members will be in touch.

The Up-skilling Academies

The Up-Skilling Academies are for you if you are already working in the sector and want to advance your career by gaining a further qualification.

We offer training in:

  • Health and Social Care Level 3
  • Health and Social Care Level 5
  • Childcare Level 3
  • Childcare Level 5
  • Playwork Level 3
  • Playwork Level 5
  • Classroom Assistant Level 3
  • HGV Driving

These academies all vary in timescale and are normally delivered over a series of best practice workshops, which are tailored to ensure your individual learning needs are met.  You will be allocated a People 1st industry expert mentor to support you with career development and to assist you in achieving your goal.

FAQs- Up-skilling

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Up-skilling Academies are open to anyone living in the council area of the specific Academy and currently employed within the sector. Participants must have the support of their employer to take part in the programme and confirmation will be required from the employer of progression opportunities within the company.

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Upskilling participants must complete a joint application with their employer. This can be provided by sending an email to [email protected] 

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Participants will be screened prior to acceptance to determine eligibility, suitability to work in the positions available.  You may need to hold Maths and English GCSEs or equivalent, or be willing to work towards them. For the Level 5 qualifications, you normally are required to have reached a suitable level prior, such as Level 3. 

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Participants will be allocated an assessor to support them on a one to one basis. Assessors use digital assessment methods and an e-portfolio system which helps reduce the volume of written work and ensures confidentiality as no paperwork leaves the workplace.

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No- all academy training costs are covered by the council and there is no cost to the applicant or employer.

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Depending on the sector and qualification level, the time frame will vary. The Academy team or your assigned mentor from People 1st will be able to answer this for you.

Our Academies team...

The Academies team comprises of three experienced team members – Ruth, Michael and Maria. 

Ruth has over 10 years’ experience in supporting clients both as a tutor and mentor.  She is experienced in working as a manager in both domiciliary care and more recently in learning disability support work. Ruth’s expertise lies in tutoring and personal development.

Michael holds eight years’ experience in working with various clients across multiple programmes to support them into employment. Keen to motivate and inspire his clients to reach their full potential, Michael’s expertise lies in career development.

Maria is a talented Business Support TEAM member that assists the Academy team in supporting clients on both up-skilling and employment programmes to progress through multiple barriers.





Hear from past Academy participants

“The Academy was very enjoyable it was nice getting to know people and interacting with them as there was activities we all took part in. I think that was the best part of the Academy-  nobody was left in the dark everyone was working together everyone had to take part we all interacted with one another and got to know one another which was a great confidence booster.”

“The help and support I received from the Academy team has been very much more than I expected. I was just expecting some guidance for courses and jobs. But the Academy has provided great mentoring for my professional development and my job. The academy has been a great moral support to me, and everyone was very supportive.”

“I loved the Academy, I remember I did not miss any classes and I still remember everything that I learned from the trainers that week. I think the most useful part for me was when the Academy helped us build a CV and guided us on interview skills.”

“The HGV Academy ran by People 1st  and Ards and North Down Borough Council has given me the chance to have a real career. It has been my dream to work with a larger vehicle, I could never have afforded to get this licence by myself.”

Earn your Digital Badge for your CV 

Participants on all academies will receive a digital badge upon successful completion of their programme.  Digital Badges give learners an innovative, simple, and visual way of displaying non-accredited learning and can be shared online on in documents. All Digital Badges are endorsed by City & Guilds and you can find out more about more about Digital Badges here:

Case Studies

Read more below about our past Academy participants and their journey with People 1st. These case studies will allow you to hear more about the process and see how taking part in an Academy can be a life changing and amazing way to begin a new career path or further progress in your current employment. Thank you so much to the participants for sharing their story! 

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