Employment and Learning

Part of Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 12th March 2013.

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Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance 2:30 pm, 12th March 2013

I thank Mr McElduff for his very broad question.  The first thing to say is that we have quality people in Northern Ireland to begin with.  Already, we are competing through the quality of the skills in our workforce.  However, we have to invest and make sure that we invest in the right areas to ensure that we are capable of capturing the opportunities that are out there for Northern Ireland.

When we have either a skills shortage or a skills mismatch, particularly at a time of high unemployment, it is a source of concern for me, as it should be for everyone.  A number of very specific interventions are under way.  We have identified a number of priority skills sectors, which correlates with the priority sectors in the economic strategy.  Beyond that, there is, for example, the information and communication technology (ICT) working group for that sector, which has an action plan in place.  We also have an action plan in place for the agrifood sector, and we are working with the engineering and advanced manufacturing sector on an action plan for it.  We are working very closely with all the high-growth-potential sectors.