Manufacturing taskforce taking action on skills gap to secure future of sector

Participants in the Mid and East Antrim Council-led manufacturing taskforce.
Participants in the Mid and East Antrim Council-led manufacturing taskforce.
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A number of SMEs in Mid and East Antrim have joined forces to explore skills related issues constraining the growth of the engineering and manufacturing sectors in the area.

The group has attracted funding from Invest Northern Ireland’s Collaborative Growth Programme to undertake a scoping study looking at skills gaps and sector attractiveness.

The companies, led by Ballymena-based GES Group, are all facing difficulties in attracting, recruiting and retaining people with the skills needed to grow and “future-proof” their sectors.

Managing Director of GES Group David Moore said “Small companies are the lifeblood of the NI economy and we are increasingly challenged in attracting suitably skilled employees to grow and sustain our businesses.

“To succeed, we need to collaborate to make the engineering and manufacturing sectors more attractive and to minimise barriers to entry and develop a more substantial and robust skills pipeline.

“This support from Invest NI is invaluable and will enable us to identify potential solutions to future proof these sectors in relation to the fourth industrial revolution.”

Cllr. Gregg McKeen, Chair of the Borough Growth Committee at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, said: “Mid and East Antrim Council set up the Manufacturing Taskforce to bring together the public and private sector to work hand-in-hand in addressing issues in the manufacturing sector.

“We want to identify and tackle the underlying issues, and this Skills Collaborative Growth Project, which was championed by council, is an excellent example of our focus on delivering and implementing actions to address the key challenges facing manufacturers of all sizes in the borough.

Niall Casey, Director of Skills and Competitiveness at Invest NI said: “We are delighted to provide support to this group of companies to enable them to identify collective solutions to their skills issues. We know from our experience that companies that collaborate often experience accelerated growth, enhanced levels of knowledge transfer and increased exposure to innovative practice”.

Other companies involved in the project include Clarke Facades, Yelo and Metal Forming Innovation Ltd, with larger companies including Moy Park, Caterpillar, Ryobi and Cranswick Country Foods.