Harland and Wolff shipyard is celebrated throughout the world as a leader in the construction industry.
The shipyard’s bright yellow cranes looming over Belfast’s skyline is one of the city’s most famous sights.
Now a new welding academy is aiming to train up the skilled specialists of tomorrow.
The pilot scheme will see 30 local trainees taught the tricks of the trade in order to become highly skilled in specialist welding techniques used at Harland and Wolff.
The project is supported by the Department of Employment and Learning’s Skills Solutions.
Teaching will be delivered by Belfast Metropolitan College and the Northern Regional College.
The initiative will be aimed at unemployed people with a background in welding, and will provide training in modern techniques.
It is hoped that after completing the academy course, the welders will have the specialist skills required to join the ranks of companies such as Harland and Wolff,
Robert J Cooper, chief executive of Harland and Wolff, said: “The manufacturing quality stipulated by our customers in the offshore oil, gas and renewable energy sectors is among the most demanding anywhere.
“This training project is essential to continue to develop the core skills necessary to compete on the international stage and bring these high-value projects to our shores.”
Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry welcomed the announcement, and said: “This will ensure that one of Northern Ireland’s most well-known employers will be able to access a high-quality, high-calibre and highly skilled pool of welders.”
The scheme will last between six and eight weeks. Fourteen of the trainee places will be provided at the Belfast Metropolitan College and 16 will be at Northern Regional College.
Applications for the scheme will open shortly and will be advertised at Jobs and Benefits offices.
Yard still top for engineering
Harland and Wolff was established in 1861 by Edward James Harland and Gustav Wilhelm Wolff.
The bright yellow twin cranes, dubbed Goliath and Samson, have been a familiar sight in the city since they were built in 1969 and 1974 respectively.
One of the most famous projects undertaken by the yard was the building of the Titanic, which began in Belfast in 1909.
To this day, the yard is one of Europe’s largest heavy engineering facilities. As many as 1,500 people can be employed by the company at any one time on major projects.
Ship repair and construction still take place at the Belfast premises. Ships regularly repaired by the company include the HSS Voyager and the HSS Explorer, as Harland and Wolff carries out work on the ship’s engines, rudders and accommodation every two years.