Promotion of Entrepreneurship

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment and Learning – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 30 September 2002.

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Photo of Ken Robinson Ken Robinson UUP 3:00, 30 September 2002

7. asked the Minister for Employment and Learning what discussion she had with her Executive Colleagues regarding the promotion of entrepreneurship.

(AQO 205/02)

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

Lead responsibility for the promotion of entrepreneurship rests with my Colleague Sir Reg Empey in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. I have discussed the issue with him in the context of the Economic Development Forum, and I attend the meetings that he chairs. My officials work closely with, and support, officials in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, the staff of Invest Northern Ireland, and officials in other Departments, on the development of a business birth-rate strategy. I do my best to ensure that my Executive Colleagues are aware of what the Department for Employment and Learning is doing to encourage entrepreneurship, by embedding the concept in everything that we do, including skills development, careers guidance and employment services.

Photo of Ken Robinson Ken Robinson UUP

I thank the Minister for a very full answer, and particularly for her reference that was supposed to illustrate joined-up government.

However, will she undertake to set up urgently university-level courses with entrepreneurship as their base specifically to target the over 2,000 highly qualified employees laid off by high-tech firms in east Antrim to ensure that these people create new high-tech businesses and to ensure that these skills are not dispersed across the globe? Will she undertake to work closely with her Colleague, Sir Reg Empey, to ensure that an imaginative response to this serious situation is urgently forthcoming?

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

I certainly acknowledge the serious situation there. I am sure that the Member is aware that we work closely in that area with employers and trainers. Some work is already being done in the universities. If the Member wants to put his suggestion in writing, we will consider it.

Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party

I congratulate the Minister on her work in encouraging entrepreneurship, particularly among young people. Given that 90% of businesses in Northern Ireland are small- to medium-sized, can she give us an assurance that the priority that she has given to encouraging entrepreneurship among young people will continue in the future?

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

Yes, I agree that it is essential that we concentrate on that. We do not have a great culture of entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland, and we must encourage and develop it. Although I do not wish to pre-empt the outcome of Invest Northern Ireland’s work in the development of the business birth strategy, I envisage my Department’s playing an important role in increasing the number of new business starts as set out in the Programme for Government 2002–05. Entrepreneurship is increasingly integrated into courses in our universities and further education institutions with the aim of contributing to an enterprise culture in Northern Ireland.