Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry has taken part in a panel discussion held as part of the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) visit to Belfast.
The debate, held at the Europa Hotel, was hosted by the incoming President of ICE, Sir John Armitt, and entitled “The Infrastructure Trilemma – funding, pipeline and skills.”
Minister Farry said: “Rebuilding and rebalancing our economy is a key priority for the Executive and the importance of having an appropriately skilled workforce is crucial to this. The recently launched Skills Barometer provides an innovative tool to identify where the pressure points will be over the next ten years. The demand for individuals with appropriate skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects is clear and measures are being taken to address this need.
“Today’s debate has provided an opportunity to discuss my Department’s priorities to identifying and meeting the skills needs of employers and the local economy; providing a full range of opportunities for our young people to achieve their full potential in terms of education, training and employment and to continue to highlight my commitment to promote the STEM agenda.
“To help achieve this, my Department is implementing the first Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Strategy, which articulates a clear skills need for providing apprenticeship opportunities at all levels to grow the local economy. It outlines the potential return apprenticeships offer both employers and apprentices and sets out the future direction for gold standard apprenticeships in Northern Ireland and how they will form a vital part of the local skills landscape.
“Earlier this year I launched ‘Generating our Success: The Northern Ireland Strategy for Youth Training’ which will establish a new system of professional and technical learning for young people here. It will provide them with a solid foundation of skills, experience and qualifications recognised and valued by employers which will provide access to future opportunities for employment or study.”
The Minister concluded: “t is crucial that employers are engaged effectively in the education system to ensure that potential entrants to industry are equipped to meet the needs of industry. Employers need to play an important role in the development of relevant curricula and are pivotal to providing work taster sessions and placement opportunities for our next generation.”
The panel was chaired by Kevin McShane, former ICE Northern Ireland Chairman, and panel members included Nigel Smyth, Director, Confederation of British Industry Northern Ireland and Angela McGowan, Chief Economist, Danske Bank. The event was attended by approximately 100 guests including civil engineers, technicians, managers and industry stakeholders.