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NOW Group launches new employability and skills academies across Ards and North Down

NOW Group, a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties, disabilities and autism into jobs with a future, has recently won a tender bid issued by Ards and North Down Borough Council, to deliver job-focused academies in the area.

The training academies are supported by the Department for Communities as part of its Labour Market Partnerships (LMP) initiative. Labour Market Partnerships create targeted employment action plans for council areas, allowing for collaboration at local and regional level to support people towards and into work.

Delivered in partnership with Ards and North Down Labour Market Partnership, the academies will fully fund 44 eligible individuals to gain new skills in customer service, health and social care, business administration and pre-employment.

NOW Group

Working alongside Ards and North Down Labour Market Partnership (LMP), the programme has been designed to respond to specific local needs by closing the gap between local employers’ needs and the skilled labour shortage across multiple sectors.

“After research conducted by the LMP department, we designed these four academies to specifically target sectors that were experiencing staff shortages and recruitment challenges,” Jenny Potter, North and East Regional Manager at NOW Group explained.

“Through the academies, we can provide training and employment opportunities for NOW Group participants whilst contributing to the success of the wider business economy by ensuring that potential employees have all the necessary skills they require to build a successful career.”

The academies run two days per week and comprise of a mixture of classroom learning and placement opportunities with local companies and organisations.

“The Pre-Employment academy will take place in Loaf Pottery, NOW Group’s social enterprise business based in Crawfordsburn; the Customer Service academy will be delivered in South Eastern Regional College and the Business Administration and health and social care academies will take place in North Down Community Network,” Jenny continued.

“On behalf of the NOW Group, we are delighted to have won this tender. NOW Group is a leading provider of training academies across Northern Ireland, and we know that they make a huge difference to the lives of our participants, which is ultimately why we do what we do. We also hope that these academies will give back to the local business community and help companies to thrive by ensuring that prospective staff are fully trained and ready for the world of work. The NOW Group strives to support projects with a purpose and we’re sure that this one will have a very positive impact on the Ards and North Down council area.”

Elsewhere, Sharyn McMaster Ards and North Down Labour Market Partnership Manager commented: “We are committed to ensuring the growth of our area – both in terms of business and the opportunities afforded to local individuals – and training academies such as these are vital tools in helping us to achieve this.

“The aim of the academies is to encourage unemployed or underemployed people to obtain skills and qualifications for better employment opportunities. By teaming up with the NOW Group, we’re able to provide a flexible and responsive delivery intervention which is reflective of current market conditions, changing labour market dynamics, and will align to deliver maximum impact for and the wider economy.

“We’re delighted with the success of the academies thus far and reports from the participants and employers are extremely encouraging. We hope that this initiative will go a long way to boosting the Ards and North Down council area.”

In 2022, the NOW Group supported over 1,700 people and helped to secure paid employment for hundreds of participants. For more information visit

179 views2 comments


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