Walsh Visa Programme

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment and Learning – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 7th May 2002.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 3:30 pm, 7th May 2002

10. asked the Minister for Employment and Learning to give an update on the Walsh visa programme.

(AQO 1278/01)

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

The Walsh visa programme is now in its third year of operation. The US legislation provides visas on the Walsh visa programme until September 2002. The Department for Employment and Learning continues to promote the programme and to recruit participants. Some 26 young people recently completed their pre-departure training, and they travelled to take up jobs in the United States on 5 May.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Will the Minister advise whether the Walsh visa programme has had any more success in keeping young people in the United States when they arrive there? Will she clarify that 26 people have travelled to the United States in the past year? How much does it cost to implement the Walsh visa programme for each person?

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

Most of the young people have stayed in the United States, but I do not possess the exact figures. It is estimated that £750,000 will be required in 2002-03, which will cover approximately 100 participants. I have not worked it out, but it is roughly £750,000 divided by 100. There may have been a second point; I am not sure.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Was there a second point, Mr Poots?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

The Minister mentioned 26 young people. Is that the figure for all of last year?

Photo of Joe Byrne Joe Byrne Social Democratic and Labour Party

I wish to pay tribute to the Walsh visa programme; it is a worthwhile scheme for those who want to experience work in America. However, what is the Minister’s Department doing to redress the under-representation of sections of the community that cannot fully avail of it, particularly the Protestant and Unionist sections?

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

I agree with the Member, and I am hopeful that the Walsh programme will continue. From the outset, the Department has been keen to encourage participation from both sides of the community. Recently we have focused marketing activity on the Unionist community, initially in the Greater Belfast area, through targeted mailshots and invitations from representative organisations to meet with the programme management. Further steps will be taken to ensure future advertising for recruitment to the programme, which will pay special attention to areas that appear to be under-represented. We must remember that the young people who avail of this opportunity are generally from poorer, disadvantaged backgrounds.