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New Assured Skills Academy with PwC and Belfast Met

Economy Minister Diane Dodds pictured with Ian McConnell of PwC at PwC’s new Merchant Square building in Belfast.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds today announced a new Assured Skills Academy with PwC offering 20 high quality training places for people with degrees.

Focussing on Future Business Skills, the Assured Skills Academy will see participants receive eight weeks of industry-relevant pre-employment training at Belfast Met.

Participants who complete the training will gain industry-recognised qualifications and are guaranteed a job interview for a role at PwC in Belfast.

Highlighting the opportunity, the Minister said: “I am pleased to announce another Assured Skills Academy with PwC and Belfast Met. This is an excellent opportunity for people with degrees seeking to start or change career in the professional services sector.

“Developing the local skills base is a key element of the economic recovery. Assured Skills Academies have a track record of success in upskilling people and helping them secure employment, and we intend to open more Academies for applications in the coming months.”

The Minister added: “Successful applicants to the Academy will receive £155 per week training allowance and will be strongly positioned to compete for a job upon completion. I urge anyone who is eligible and interested to apply for this exciting opportunity.”

Ian McConnell, PwC partner responsible for Operate, said: “What’s really exciting about this Academy is that it’s focused on skills that will support growth across Northern Ireland, which could lead to very attractive career prospects for our students.

“We’re determined to support people to develop world-class careers on their doorstep. We recognise that as the world of work continues to change, upskilling and retraining is critical. By ensuring that a background in technology isn’t necessary to gain a place on this programme, we’re helping to create opportunities for a much broader group of people.”

The Future Business Skills Academy will focus on a range of areas including Financial Crime, Compliance Testing, Customer Management, PMO Services and Business Operations.

The Academy will last eight weeks and be delivered primarily virtually, although applicants should be prepared to attend some classes in a Belfast Met campus.

Louise Warde Hunter, Principal and Chief Executive of Belfast Met, said: “I am delighted that Belfast Met is continuing to deliver this successful series of Academies. The Future Business Skills Academies have resulted in programme participants gaining new life-changing skills and progressing into good jobs and careers as a result. 

“It is commendable that PwC is offering highly skilled roles during these challenging times, and we look forward to continuing to deliver this DfE programme in partnership with them.”

Applications for the PwC Future Business Skills Assured Skills Academy are open until noon on 23 June. Video interviews will be held 30 June-2 July and training will commence for successful applicants on 19 July.

No experience is required. Applicants must hold a 2:2 degree or better in any discipline.

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£100,000 Grants Scheme for Community Led Road Safety Initiatives

Minister Mallon is joined by Seamus McAleavey, Chief Executive of NICVA; Brendan McAteer, Colin Neighbourhood Partnership and pupils from St. Kieran’s Primary School, Niamh Hamill and Taylor Dowds to launch the 2021/22 Road Safety (Safe Travel) Grant Scheme.

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.

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Applications for Spend Local Pre-Paid Card will Open from 27th September

Announcing the next phase of the High Street Scheme, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons with Milana Surova of Memento florists on the Ormeau Road, Belfast.

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.”

Announcing the next phase of the High Street Scheme, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons joins Michael Goggin of Michel’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetables on the Ormeau Road, Belfast.

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:

  • name;
  • address;
  • age;
  • gender;
  • 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

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