WEST Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has called on the Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, to show his support for a vital Short Strand youth project that may close down due to a lack of departmental funding.
The ‘Training by Choice’ project, which operates out of Swan House on the Albertbridge Road in East Belfast, is an alternative education course focused on music technology, digital photography and 3D websites for young people aged between 16 and 18 who have left full-time education with little or no qualifications.
Thirty-two young people who attend the project held a protest at Parliament Buildings in Stormont supporting the continuation of the project after funding for the programme, which comes fro the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), ran out recently.
Jennifer McCann lent her support to the protest and called on Minister Farry to reconsider funding the programme.
“Training By Choice is the type of project that grabs the attention of many young people in this age group who did not find similar stimulation in formal education,” she said.
“I spoke with some of the 32 young people who are affected by this situation and they are devastated at the prospect that the project will be discontinued if funding is not restored. Considering the efforts put in by the Office of the First and deputy First Ministers to attract major performing arts projects such as Game of Thrones I would think that this project is precisely what we should be encouraging. I urge the Minister to assess and recognise the need to develop local talent through projects such as Training by Choice to service these valuable performing arts projects.”
A DEL spokesperson said: “Until very recently Training by Choice was a sub-contractor of an organisation engaged by the Department to deliver its main training programme for unemployed 16-18-year-olds, Training for Success, a strand of which is intended for those young people facing barriers to their training.
“The contractor is now working with Training by Choice to resolve changes to its training arrangements in order to ensure these meet the standards expected. The Department’s prime concern is for the young people affected and to ensure the quality of training they and all young people receive under the Training for Success programme.”