image copyrightWestend61/Getty Imagesimage captionJobs on offer will range from software development to project management and sales

IT company Version 1 is creating 180 new jobs in Belfast, more than doubling its workforce in the city.

Up to 120 of the jobs will be funded through assured skills academies to the value of £821,000.

Those will be run by Belfast Met and funded by the Department for the Economy.

Jobs on offer will range from software development to project management and sales, with annual starting salaries of about £25,000.

Applications for the first academy are open now and successful applicants will receive eight weeks of training before starting the role.

It is hoped those hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic will be encouraged to apply, including younger people or those who have lost jobs in sectors such as tourism and hospitality.

Version 1's operations director Lorna McAdoo said: "What we've found is particularly because of Covid a lot of the organisations that we worked with is they want more of their services to be handled digitally.

"We currently have 50 vacancies online that have been a challenge to fill and that's why the assured skills academies are so important."

She added that the company was "interested in young people from any background".

"They could be in hospitality right now or at university or college studying something totally different to IT and thinking: 'I wish I had studied IT' – this is an opportunity for them," she said.

image copyright©Copyright David Martin/Geographimage captionBelfast Met will run the Assured Skills Academies

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said the skills programme would "ensure… we can match skills to the growing needs of companies in Northern Ireland".

"Skills mobility is a huge issue for any economy – we need people to be able to transfer from one sector to the other and this will allow them to do that," she added.

"We have seen unemployment rise very significantly despite huge levels of support from Westminster with the furlough scheme, and from my own department, but this is an opportunity to match growth and skills."

Louise Warde Hunter, the principal and chief executive of Belfast Met, said employers were "finding people coming through to them that don't have the skills needed to hit the ground running".

That, she said, was why academies tailored to the industry were important.

"They could be young people at university or older people with work experience under their belt but they are given tailored skills development," she said.

"Since March 2020, about 330 people have come through an assured skills academy with Belfast Met – that will be replicated across Northern Ireland.

"This reflects not only the need during lockdown but also the capacity for the digital sector to provide services online."

Applicants must have a 2:2 in a degree of any discipline or a Level 5 qualification in an ICT or STEM subject.