By Q Radio News
More than 600 skilled jobs are to be created by professional services company PwC in Northern Ireland.
The Department for the Economy has worked with PwC, Belfast Met and Ulster University (UU) to develop a £4.4 million pre-employment training project.
It is part of significant growth plans for PwC in Northern Ireland over the next five years.
Paul Terrington, PwC's head of regions, said: "Our Operate division's unprecedented growth over the past two-and-a-half years has created a consistent demand for more highly-skilled people to fill exciting jobs of the future in Northern Ireland - PwC's biggest UK location outside London.
"Co-creating the content for these academies means we are able to play a positive role in upskilling the Northern Ireland workforce, in line with PwC's commitment to digital upskilling not just for our employees but for wider society."
Special Assured Skills Academies will be delivered by Belfast Met and UU over the next five years and the first, PwC's Future Business Skills Academy, is open for applications now.
Economy Department deputy secretary Heather Cousins said: "This expansion by PwC is a massive endorsement of the talent in Northern Ireland and the Department for Economy's ability to respond to the skills needed by growing companies in the professional services sector here.
"The co-operation between DfE, PwC, Belfast Met and Ulster University to upskill graduates to compete for 600 new jobs at PwC represents the biggest Assured Skills Academies project to date.
"Assured Skills Academies are a proven and successful model of upskilling the Northern Ireland workforce and ensuring that local businesses have access to the people they need to grow."
Since starting as a pilot in 2011, Assured Skills Academies have trained more than 1,500 people, with over 1,200 securing employment across a range of diverse sectors, the senior civil servant said.
The Belfast office is the fastest growing PwC office in the UK.
The initiative will deliver 37 Assured Skills Academies delivering pre-employment training for up to 120 graduates per year over the next five years.
Damian Duffy, director of development at Belfast Met, said: "The investment by DfE in this series of Assured Skills Academies, delivered in conjunction with Ulster University, is testament to the confidence in our track record of delivering high quality Academies in complex business topics.
"Our industry-relevant, focused teaching gives participants the skills they need to operate in the business world and we look forward to welcoming learners onto the course over the next five years."