I acknowledge the significant achievements made by the Southern Regional College to deliver courses that address specific issues in neighbourhood renewal areas. It has been gratifying to see the success. My Department, in tandem with the wider further education sector, remains committed to tackling disadvantage across Northern Ireland, including those areas that are not designated as neighbourhood renewal areas. Colleges provide a varied curriculum tailored to local needs.
My Department has also built upon the success of the learner access and engagement pilot (LAEP) to develop a mainstream programme that will begin in September 2013. It can be delivered in all areas in Northern Ireland and is not restricted to neighbourhood renewal areas. The programme will provide opportunities for non-statutory organisations to provide learner support for adults through a contractual arrangement with colleges. That support will be directed at hard-to-reach adults who are economically inactive, disengaged from the labour market, and hold few or no qualifications, to encourage them to undertake a course that will help to prepare them for employment or higher learning.
Under the Executive's Pathways to Success strategy, the Department will fund new approaches to help unemployed young people who are experiencing socio-economic disadvantage to gain the skills and qualifications necessary to progress to further education, government-funded training or employment — especially the essential skills of literacy, numeracy and ICT. The community-based access pilot programme will focus on essential skills for 16- to 18-year-olds.