Dodds launches 10X skills strategy to create more and better jobs

Investing in the skills and talent of our workforce is absolutely vital for economic success, Economy Minister Diane Dodds has said.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 1:00 pm
Updated Saturday, 29th May 2021, 10:12 am
Economy Minister Diane Dodds with Stephen Kelly, CEO of Manufacturing NI and a Visiting Professor at Ulster University's Global Business and Enterprise Department, Angela McGowan, Director, Confederation of British Industries, Northern Ireland, Mark Huddleston, Managing Director of jheSOLUTIONS, member of the MATRIX Science and Industry Panel and Deputy Chair of the Skills Advisory Group, Jackie Henry, Managing Partner People and Purpose Deloitte UK and Chair of the Skills Strategy Advisory Group and Louise Warde Hunter, Principal and Chief Executive at Belfast Met.at the launch of ‘Skills for a 10X Economy’

Investing in the skills and talent of our workforce is absolutely vital for economic success, Economy Minister Diane Dodds has said.

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.

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HND Level 3 music students Simon Gervin, guitar/singer, Jonny Hayward, bass, Roíse Nesbitt, keys and Matthew McMillan, drums pictured with Economy Minister Diane Dodds at Belfast Met's E3 Campus

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, continued: “As Chair of the Skills Strategy Advisory Group I am absolutely delighted to see the consultation on the new skills strategy launched. 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, explained: “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, added: “CBI research shows that nine in 10 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 the launch, concluded: “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.”

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