The Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme

The Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme (NI CEP) is creating 100 paid apprenticeships and paid internships in arts and cultural organisations, helping to give young people the chance to gain experience in organisations local to where they live.

Young people aged 16-24 from all backgrounds, from graduates to those with few or no qualifications, will get the chance to access on-the-job-training and experience to build the skills that employers want while working in high-quality organisations.

PLEASE NOTE: Unfortunately applications for apprenticeships cannot be accepted in the final two funding rounds (April and June 2017). This is due to limitations with apprenticeship provision beyond the NI Creative Employment Programme and outside of our control. 

If you have any questions about this, please do not hesitate to contact us on

Purpose of the Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme

The Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme aims to:

  • Increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities across the arts sectors;
  • Increase the number of paid interns in the sector, with a view to completely eradicating unpaid internships in the long term;
  • Generate long-term commitment to sustaining new job opportunities beyond the life of the NI CEP;
  • Establish/maintain equitable and fit-for-purpose recruitment practices;
  • Improve understanding of employment challenges associated with the arts;
  • Develop robust local partnerships that can help improve employment opportunities for young people;
  • Create fairer entry routes into the arts and cultural sector;
  • Encourage greater collaboration and innovation by employers to generate jobs in the arts and cultural sector;
  • Support the next generation of arts and cultural professionals and enable the growth of the sector by directly addressing skills gaps and shortages.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland will fund NI CEP to run until January 2018. Final applications will be in October 2016 and all job opportunities supported through this programme need to have started (not completed) by March 2017.

Bringing in the Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme at a time of economic downturn provides the extra help that employers need. Over the life of the programme, we hope employers will experience the real benefits of creating fairer entry routes and see the impact of generating a more diverse workforce.

Who can access the Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme?

The Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme is for young people aged 16-24. Young people are disproportionately affected by current levels of unemployment. There are currently nearly 1 million unemployed young people in the UK.


We will encourage employers to fill all internship opportunities with a young person who is in receipt of unemployment related benefits. However, we acknowledge that many young people, particularly graduates, who are keen to work in the sector take on zero-hours contracts and or part-time work outside of the sector in an effort to secure freelance or part-time work in the creative sector. This programme does not wish to exclude these individuals and is seeking to reach the widest demographic possible amongst young people aged 18-24. We will work with employers to recruit on this basis and specifically target unemployed young people and those who are likely to benefit the most. 

All internship opportunities must be advertised through the Jobcentre Online NI and must be filled by a young person with a qualification of level 4 and above up to the age of 24.


An apprenticeship is an accredited programme of working and learning and is used to provide skills to a new generation of workers. The apprentice undertakes a combination of on-the-job training with an employer and off-the-job training with a college/provider.

We will fund any apprenticeship pathway that is relevant to the arts and cultural workforce.  In Northern Ireland the available frameworks are Live Events & Promotion, Technical Theatre (Stage, Light and Sound), Costume & Wardrobe, Cultural Venue Operations, Community Arts and Business Administration.

All apprenticeship posts must be advertised through the Jobcentre Online NI.  As there is no formal way of officially verifying the employment status of some young people (e.g. you cannot be a Jobseeker's Allowance claimant if you’re 16-18 years old) then we ask employers to try and recruit in the spirit of the programme by offering apprenticeship opportunities to those who are likely to benefit the most.

Funding Rounds

Remaining application deadline dates for the programme are as follows.  Please note each round closes at 5pm on each deadline date:

  • 10 June 2016
  • 19 August 2016
  • 28 October 2016
  • 27 January 2017
  • 07 April 2017
  • 16 June 2017

For more information or to discuss any aspect of the programme in more detail, please contact the NI CEP team at or 028 9032 5072.