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Graduate Acceleration Plan Unveiled

6 January 2010

Professor Denise McAlister CBE, Ulster's PVC Teaching and Learning, with Minister Sir Reg Empey, QUB PVC Gerry McCormac and Dr Gerard O'Hare CBE, at the launch of the GAP initiative

Northern Ireland graduates are set to benefit from a unique initiative offering them a work placement alongside further study – all in aid of securing long term employment.

The Graduate Acceleration Programme (GAP), developed by Business in the Community in partnership with the University of Ulster and QUB, hopes to help graduates get on to the career ladder in 2010, and is available from Monday 11th January.

The programme involves a work placement, lasting up to 26 weeks, in which graduates complete a project or piece of work, while studying for one of two specially developed qualifications:  the Graduate Certificate in Professional Practice with the University of Ulster, or the Graduate Certificate in Organisation and Management with QUB.

Professor Denise McAlister CBE, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at Ulster, said: "The scheme – which complements our upGRADE initiative announced last summer,  –  will give graduates the opportunity to gain meaningful work experience and a valuable qualification at a time when they may otherwise be strugggling to gain employment. It is also an excellent example of Ulster's commitment to partnership working."

Funded by the Department of Employment and Learning under its Steps to Work programme, government, the universities, and many businesses have come together with a common goal of helping unemployed graduates affected by the recession.

“The employment prospects for graduates leaving university this year are possibly gloomier than they've ever been,” said Sir Reg Empey, Minister for the Department of Employment and Learning. “As a result of the economic downturn, Northern Ireland faces a situation whereby thousands of graduates now face considerable difficulty gaining employment.

“The Department of Employment and Learning is extremely supportive of this programme which will provide graduates with employability skills and the much needed experience that is often required to gain employment.”

Dr Gerard O’Hare CBE, Chair of GAP, Managing Director of Parker Green International and Chairman of the University of Ulster Foundation, explained what has been happening so far:

“We have already had expressions of interest from over 150 organisations in the private, public and voluntary sectors as well as over 250 graduate enquiries proving that GAP provides a real opportunity, with mutual benefits, for employers and graduates.”

“The programme has been endorsed by the CBI, the Institute of Directors and the Chambers of Commerce; all are in agreement that we cannot afford to lose our next generation of graduates and a programme such as GAP is much needed.”

“Employers can gain a lot from participating in the programme including benefiting from a graduate’s fresh enthusiasm and skills, completion of a specific piece of work adding value to an organisation and the opportunity to be known as an employer of choice,” said Dr O’Hare.

“In addition,  an employer subsidy is available if an organisation is in the position to offer permanent employment to the GAP graduate – all in all it’s a win-win situation.”

Employers who participate in GAP will not be required to pay a wage as every graduate while on GAP will receive their current rate of benefit plus an additional weekly training bonus.

To find out more about GAP, see