Diane Dodds: I want NI to be a world-leading small economy

Northern Ireland’s economy minister says she wants to transform the Province into one of the world’s elite small open economies.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 6:00 am
Diane Dodds said NI needed to capitalise on its talented workforce

Diane Dodds was speaking as she launched a new skills strategy aimed at supporting more people to fulfil their economic potential.

Skills for a 10X Economy 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).

Mrs Dodds said skills are crucial to achieving her ambition for Northern Ireland.

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“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,” she said.

“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.”

Mrs Dodds added: “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.”

She said she will establish a Skills Council for Northern Ireland, bringing together leaders from government, business, education and trade unions.

“I want to put these key sectors at the heart of our efforts to drive forward skills development,” she added.

The minister said she will work with her colleagues in the Stormont Executive to secure the funding for the strategy, which has been launched for public consultation.

Jackie Henry, chairman of the Skills Strategy Advisory Group and managing partner, people and purpose, at Deloitte UK, said: “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.”

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, commended the strategy as “timely and welcome” for the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.