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Aflac Northern Ireland Receives Two Prestigious Honours from Local Organisations

Aflac Northern Ireland, home to Aflac Incorporated’s global IT and Cybersecurity innovation centre, has announced that Keith Farley has been recognised as a Belfast Ambassador, securing an honorary medal for his work promoting the city and contributing to its development. Farley is the vice president and managing director of the fast-growing tech and cybersecurity company Aflac NI.

The Belfast Ambassador Awards marked the finale of the annual Belfast International Homecoming 2021 event, which is designed to strengthen and build bridges between the city and the Irish diaspora.

Keith, a native of Atlanta, Georgia (USA), received the award at a ceremony at Belfast City Hall on 4 November and was one of only 15 people from around the world who was recognised for their standout contribution to the city. 

Awarded for “going the extra mile” for the city, each winner was invited to share their experiences, explain why they chose to live and work in Belfast, and tell how they helped to enhance local life.

“We are extremely proud of Keith and the entire Northern Ireland team for their commitment to excellence, both in the job they are doing for Aflac and the care they are taking to acknowledge and return the warm welcome that we received from the Belfast community,” said Aflac Incorporated President Frederick J. Crawford. “From the moment Aflac arrived in Belfast, we have been struck by the talent of the people in a resilient city that is firmly future-focused, innovative and ready to succeed. Belfast has quickly become an important part of Aflac’s global footprint and family.”

Under Keith’s leadership, in 2019, Aflac NI, a subsidiary of U.S.- based supplemental health insurance giant Aflac, chose Belfast as its preferred location to establish a new IT and cybersecurity hub. In spite of having to adapt worksite plans due to the global pandemic, the company has built a team of more than 130 local staff, and expects to continue adding employees in 2022 as well.

In addition to the Ambassador Medal, Aflac NI was recently recognised as Belfast’s Best Place to Work at the Belfast Chamber Business Awards 2021, in recognition for its unrivalled commitment to its employees, its culture and community involvement.

Last month, the company brought its award-winning My Special Aflac Duck® to Northern Ireland in a unique partnership with The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity. My Special Aflac Duck is a robotic, interactive duck specifically designed to be a comforting companion for children dealing with cancer. Aflac NI is making the duck available free of charge to cancer patients age 3 and over.

“It is initiatives like this that demonstrate the depth of Aflac’s commitment to community,” Keith said. “We are a company whose mission is to be there when our policyholders, our employees and our communities need us most.”

Business

One Week Left To Go To Apply For This Year’s Boardroom Apprentice

Founder of Boardroom Apprentice, Eileen Mullan

There’s only one week left to apply for this year’s Boardroom Apprentice programme online via the official Boardroom Apprentice website.

All applications are to be submitted by 3:00pm on Tuesday, May 24.

Now in its sixth  year, the Boardroom Apprentice is a UK first 12-month unique board learning, development and placement programme which enables those who would like to serve on a public or third sector board to learn and gain experience through in-depth training and support.

Founded by Eileen Mullan in 2017, the programme has helped 223 candidates from across Northern Ireland to begin their Boardroom journey thanks to its support from the Department of Finance.

Applications are open to those aged 16 or over from all backgrounds and abilities as the programme aims to enable a wider diversity of individuals to sit on boards and help move their board member role from aspiration to reality.

Eileen Mullan, Boardroom Apprentice founder, said: “I decided to create a programme that brings together three key elements – knowledge and understanding, experience and support.

Over a twelve-month window Boardroom Apprentices will get practical board experience, a suite of learning days and support to fully equip them to serve on a board in the public or third sector after completing the programme,“Being a Boardroom Apprentice is a gift. You get the programme as a gift with the expectation that you give it back. Being a Boardroom Apprentice is about preparing you for public service, which is about you playing your part.”

Throughout the 12 months, candidates are required to take part in regular learning days on topics such as finance, governance along with  a board placement on one of this year’s 58 Host Boards, matched by both Eileen and a selection of former apprentices.

2020 Boardroom Apprentice Magdalena Bisewska revealed the experience is for everyone.

“I would encourage anyone to apply. It’s about creating opportunities for everyone. We’ve all got something to contribute.

“I think everyone from any nationality, any background, all walks of life, should apply as it’s given you the confidence, the knowledge and the skills to make a difference.”

This year’s programme will run from 01st September 2022 – until 31st August 2023 in adherence to all relevant Covid-19 guidance.

“If being on a board giving your time and sharing your skills is something you aspire to do, but are not sure how to do then Boardroom Apprentice will enable you to do just that,” said Eileen.

Applications are still open, to apply go to https://boardroomapprentice.com/how-to-apply/ 

For more information on Boardroom Apprentice go to https://boardroomapprentice.com 

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UK Wide Industry Standard ‘We’re Good To Go’ Restored Faith In NI’s Hospitality Sector

CEO of Tourism NI, John McGrillen

The UK wide industry-standard, We’re Good to Go, which has supported businesses throughout the pandemic has been phased out following a successful campaign.

The standard which was introduced in July 2020 when organisations were struggling to adjust to new regulations allowed businesses to demonstrate the Covid-19 protocols they had put in place to keep both staff and visitors safe while the hospitality sector moved to reopening.

“It has been tough, we had to adjust and review our operating procedures and various range of risk assessments,” said Pim Dalm, the Managing Director of Clandeboye Lodge Hotel in Bangor County Down.

With the help of the ‘We’re Good To Go’ accreditation, Clandeboye Lodge Hotel was able to maintain a safe environment for its staff. 

“We felt it was very important to make sure that our staff felt confident that as business owners we had taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the environment in which they were either interacting with guests or interacting amongst each other was as safe as could possibly be.”

Looking back on the unpredictability the tourism sector was facing at the time, Dermot Friel, owner of Friel’s Bar and Restaurant explained the importance of safety for organised trips.

 “Tour operators wanted to know if their guests and visitors were going to be looked after in a safe environment. That was one of their first questions, were we ‘Good To Go’ accredited?” he recalled.

Fortunately, the success of the initiative allowed many local businesses to safely reopen their premises and welcome visitors and guests after a long period of uncertainty. 

For Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, the We’re Good To Go accreditation meant that Northern Ireland’s primary royal residence could start planning for the future.

“Being declared Good To Go was peace of mind that you were safe at work and that you can provide a safe experience for your visitors.

“The We’re Good To Go campaign was an incredibly important part of our discussions with international vendors about our 2022 calendar and for trying to build back up to our pre covid business levels,” said Christine Grant, Palace Host Team Leader of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.

Examining the consumer confidence, propensity to travel and consumer concerns at the time, Tourism NI’s Consumer Sentiment Analysis gave exceptional insight into the success of the We’re Good To Go initiative. 

Only a few months after launching the initiative, by March 2021, almost a quarter of NI consumers (23%) were aware of the ‘We’re Good to Go Mark’. For the vast majority (92%) who were aware of it, this mark gave them confidence that a business was safe to visit. The same research confirmed that when restrictions eased, two-thirds of NI consumers would be more inclined to visit a business that displayed the mark over one that didn’t.

Tourism NI’s CEO John McGrillen said: “The ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme was vital for businesses as it reassured visitors that they had put the necessary arrangements in place to deal with Covid safely. That consumer confidence was a critical part of driving consumer demand.

“I am exceptionally proud of the industry for their collective effort and investment to ensure guests felt safe when visiting their experiences and attractions. This is testament to the resilience and strength of character of the wonderful people we have working within the sector across Northern Ireland. 

“This tenacity and giant spirit throughout the tourism sector contributes to the positive outlook as we move towards economic recovery following the pandemic.”

Throughout the campaign, all businesses operating within the visitor economy including accommodation providers, visitor attractions and more were encouraged to apply for the accreditation. In Northern Ireland, a total of 2,148 businesses took part and displayed the green logo on their premises and online. 

By the end of summer 2021, NI holidaymakers felt more confident to book further in advance than ROI visitors. This could partly be attributed to the success of the We’re Good To Go standards of which 50% of consumers were aware.

Since Covid restrictions in Northern Ireland were officially lifted in February 2022 and consumer nervousness around travelling lessened, VisitEngland, VisitScotland, Visit Wales and Tourism Northern Ireland have agreed that the initiative has achieved what it set out to and drew the scheme to a close. 

With nationwide restrictions behind us, Tourism NI acknowledges the support of the industry for taking the proactive step in helping visitors feel safe when travelling within, or to Northern Ireland. 

The organisation is looking forward to welcoming both domestic and international visitors and guests in the coming season and seeing the tourism and hospitality industry restored to pre-pandemic levels. 

Whilst the ‘We’re Good To Go’ scheme has closed we would like to encourage businesses to stay connected with Tourism NI for other supporting activities.

For more information on how Tourism NI can support your business visit: www.tourismni.com 

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