Investing in the skills and talent of our workforce is absolutely vital for economic success, Economy Minister Diane Dodds said today.
The Minister was speaking at Belfast Met’s E3 Campus as she launched ‘Skills for a 10X Economy’, the Department for the Economy’s strategy to support more people to improve their job prospects and fulfil their economic potential.
The strategy is a key pillar of the10X Economic Vision for Northern Ireland, which the Minister published earlier this month. The skills strategy outlines plans to focus on innovation by increasing further education qualifications in technical and professional skills and rebalancing higher education towards Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM).
The Minister said: “My ambition is to transform Northern Ireland into one of the world’s elite small open economies and skills are crucial to achieving this goal. I cannot overstate this.
“We already have a talented workforce but we need to capitalise on it. Investing in our skills and talent will deliver more and better job opportunities, greater earning potential, better individual wellbeing and, in turn, an improved overall economy.
“Skills for a 10X Economy’ sets out a plan to deliver significant growth in qualifications in technical and professional skills through further education. By doing this we will grow in the key strategic areas that are vital to our economic ambitions as set out in 10X Economic Vision.
“Alongside this, we will seek to rebalance graduate and postgraduate qualifications in higher education towards STEM subjects, which are so crucial for boosting innovation and equipping us for the jobs of the future.
“The strategy will also tackle inequality by supporting people with low or no qualifications to overcome the barriers to employment and making the most of their capabilities.”
The Minister continued: “I will establish a Skills Council for Northern Ireland which will bring together leaders from government, business, education and trade unions because I want to put these key sectors at the heart of our efforts to drive forward skills development.
“Delivering on the strategy will require investment and I will work with my Executive colleagues to secure the required support.”
Stakeholders and the public are invited to review the proposed skills strategy and give their views as it is launched for public consultation.
The Minister added: “I want to hear from everyone who has a view on what Northern Ireland’s future skills base should look like – please engage with the consultation and make your voice heard on how we can deliver better skills, better jobs and better lives.”
Members of the Department’s Skills Strategy Advisory Group have given the skills strategy their support and endorsement.
Jackie Henry, Managing Partner People and Purpose Deloitte UK and Chair of the Skills Strategy Advisory Group, said: “As Chair of the Skills Strategy Advisory Group I am absolutely delighted to see the consultation on the new skills strategy launched today. We have been thrilled with the level of engagement from the Minister and the Department in getting us to this stage. I cannot overstate the importance of a skilled workforce to our economic progress. Skills will be key to the recovery of the local economy and it is essential that the business community across all sectors have a voice in shaping that future.”
Mark Huddleston, Managing Director of jheSOLUTIONS, member of the MATRIX Science and Industry Panel and Deputy Chair of the Skills Advisory Group, said: “Skills are vital to individuals, communities and businesses in providing opportunity, good work and inclusive growth. The plans focus on lifelong learning and addressing barriers to employment, which are essential to ensuring the breadth of talent in Northern Ireland is given the maximum opportunity to succeed.”
Stephen Kelly, CEO of Manufacturing NI and a Visiting Professor at Ulster University’s Global Business and Enterprise Department, said: “This strategy is timely and welcome as we exit from Covid and our manufacturers begin the task of helping rebuild our economy. This recovery will be built on our most important asset recognised by all businesses, our people. Rapidly improving our skills in technology, leadership and building a culture of lifelong learning will allow us to come back stronger and sustain it. The Minister and her Executive colleagues share our aim to create work and wealth and this strategy and the investments flowing from it will help our manufacturing firms make an even bigger contribution to our economy and communities across Northern Ireland.”
Angela McGowan, Director, Confederation of British Industries, Northern Ireland, said: “CBI research shows that nine in ten employees will need to reskill by 2030. New technologies and the changing nature of our economy are transforming the skills needed for many jobs, while other roles are being lost entirely. As Covid-19 accelerates changes to the world of work, this new NI skills strategy provides a unique opportunity to drive an upskilling and reskilling effort to futureproof livelihoods and power local business competitiveness”.
Louise Warde Hunter, Principal and Chief Executive at Belfast Met, which hosted today’s launch, said: “I warmly welcome the consultation on the new skills strategy for Northern Ireland, ‘Skills for a 10X Economy’, in the context of the 10X Economic Vision. Belfast Met will play its full part in helping to deliver the ambitions of both. The FE sector is a skills engine for Northern Ireland and our learners, and the employers they will enhance as work-ready staff, are central to the economic future of Northern Ireland.”
£100,000 Grants Scheme for Community Led Road Safety Initiatives
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has launched the 2021/22 Road Safety (Safe Travel) Grant Scheme. Individuals and community groups can apply for funding of up to £10,000 to develop and deliver local road safety initiatives.
Minister Mallon said: “I am delighted to launch the £100,000 2021/22 Road Safety Grant Scheme which aims to support initiatives that not only encourage safe road user behaviour, but also have a positive impact on improving wellbeing for everyone.
“I recognise the key role that communities play in raising awareness of how we can stay safe on our roads whether we are driving, walking, cycling or wheeling. My Department’s Road Safety Grant Scheme aims to empower and support individuals, communities and organisations to promote and deliver road safety initiatives in their area and encourage safe active travel modes of transport.
“It is encouraging to see more people choosing to walk or cycle as we move into recovery from Covid-19. Active travel not only improves our health and wellbeing but also benefits the environment. I am committed to doing all I can to make our roads and footways safer and to ensure everyone choosing to travel actively can do so safely. However, we all have a part to play in improving road safety and reducing the number of deaths on our roads.
“The 2021/22 scheme is now open for applications to support local community projects. I would encourage those who believe that they can make a positive contribution by delivering innovative, community-led road safety projects to apply for financial support.”
To qualify, groups must be properly constituted, have a bank account and be able to complete the project by 4 March 2022. Applications are also acceptable from individuals who are working in partnership with a community group involved in the process.
Seamus McAleavey, Chief Executive of NICVA said:
“NICVA is delighted at the Minister’s announcement today launching the Road Safety Grant Scheme. During the last 18 months community organisations have been focussed on helping cope with the pandemic, but road safety is still a big issue for many. This grant scheme, set out by Minister Mallon, is a boost to community groups and local road safety initiatives. I would encourage groups to use the scheme to help communities’ safe travel.”
Brendan McAteer, Colin Neighbourhood Partnership said:
“The grant provided to Colin Neighbourhood Partnership through the 2020/21 DfI Road Safety Grant Scheme has helped to create a better awareness of the dangers on our roads and provided us with an opportunity to engage with a wide and varied range of residents within the Colin Community on keeping safe when using the roads. This grant has made the Colin area a much safer place to live, work and play for all.”
Grants must be used on locally focused road safety projects to help the Department achieve outcomes identified within its Road Safety Strategy to 2020.
For more information and a funding application pack visit: www.nidirect.gov.uk/road-safety-grant-scheme
Application must be received by the Department by 12 noon on Friday 15th October 2021.
Applications for Spend Local Pre-Paid Card will Open from 27th September
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons announced a number of important dates in the rollout of the High Street Scheme (HSS).
On a visit to Belfast’s Ormeau Road – which was recently announced as Retail NI’s High Street of the Year – the Minister announced that the online portal which will enable anyone aged over 18 and over to apply for the £100 Spend Local pre-paid cards – will be open from 27th September until 25th October.
He also announced a number of other key dates. They are:
- Week commencing 4th October – First tranche of cards will issue to those who have successfully applied for the Spend Local pre-paid card.
- 11th October – Telephone service will open to support applications from people not able to access or use the online portal.
- 25th October – High Street Scheme online portal and telephone services will close.
- 25th October – the last qualifying date for those turning 18 to be eligible to apply for a Spend Local card.
- 30th November – High Street Scheme closes and the Spend Local pre-paid cards will cease to be valid.
The Minister said: “Now is the time to get ready to Spend Local. I am delighted to announce that the online portal will open to receive applications in just under two weeks with the first tranche of Spend Local pre-paid cards to issue the week beginning 4th of October.
“The objective of the £145million High Street Scheme is to boost local businesses following the drop in footfall brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. By giving everyone aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland a pre-paid card worth £100 to spend in local high businesses, we will encourage many more customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and services.
“I would encourage everyone who is over 18 by 25th October this year, to apply for their card between 27th September and October 25th. We expect demand to be high so please be patient if the online portal is busy just after it opens. It is important to remember that everyone will have at least four weeks to spend their card.
“By applying, receiving and ultimately spending your Spend Local card in local businesses such as shops, hospitality and other services before November 30, you will be doing your bit to support your local businesses.”
The Minister was joined by Chris O’Reilly, Chair of Ormeau Business Association, Simon Hamilton of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, Glyn Roberts of Retail NI and local traders.
Welcoming the scheme, Mr O’Reilly said: “We would like to welcome the Minister to the Ormeau Road – the High Street of the Year. Like many other local high streets across our towns and cities, the Ormeau Road is home to a diverse range of shops, restaurants and pubs which have felt the impact of the pandemic through a reduced number of customers coming through our doors. The High Street Scheme will deliver just the boost we need right now. I am sure I speak for many traders across Northern Ireland when I say we are looking forward to seeing customers using their Spend Local cards.”
Mr Hamilton said: “Belfast Chamber is delighted to support the launch of the Department for the Economy’s Spend Local card. It has been an immensely challenging period for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses and this £100 Spend Local card will give people the opportunity to actively help those businesses. It is also a great way to support everyone who works in our local shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and other services. This scheme will provide a much needed and very timely boost to those hard-hit sectors and make a massive difference to businesses as we emerge from the pandemic and edge towards recovery.”
Mr Roberts said: “Retail NI has been a strong advocate for the High Street Scheme as a stimulant to support economic recovery. This £100 pre-paid Spend Local Card will be a much needed welcome spending boost for many retailers and our High Streets as whole. Our sector has suffered significantly during the pandemic and the High Street Scheme has come at the right time. I encourage consumers to spend this card with local retailers to boost our economy.”
From 27th of September to 25th of October applicants will be asked to apply through NI Direct. For verification purposes in order to reduce the risk of fraud and error, each applicant will be asked to provide:
- disability status;
- national insurance number;
- email address; and
- telephone number.
Applicants will also have the option of including a driving licence number to enable verification. Once the applicant has completed the registration process their information will be checked against a number of government databases to verify their identity.
The portal is expected to be extremely busy in the days after it opens. Applicants are reminded that the online portal will be open for four weeks and everyone will have a minimum of four weeks to spend their card.
Applicants should receive their Spend Local card within 7-10 days of making their application. When an applicant receives their card, they will need to verify the card through a computer-operated phone system or text message and make the first payment using a pin, before they can start to use it for contactless payments.
The cards can be used in all participating businesses in Northern Ireland. They cannot be used online or for gambling or some financial and legal services.
The telephone support service will open on 11th October. The later opening of the telephone service has been implemented to encourage more people to apply online when the portal opens on 27th September and avoid using the phone line leaving it available for those who do not have access to, or are not able to use, the internet.
A public information campaign across television, radio, press and social media will begin on 16th September to keep applicants up-to-date with the scheme