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Belfast Met's Leading the City to Work initiative is the college's commitment to working in partnership with stakeholders to transform lives and to contribute to the economic and social success of Belfast and Northern Ireland. The initiative reflects the further education sector's challenging dual role, which was set out recently in the further education strategy, Further Education Means Success, in which colleges are pivotal to the development of a strong, vibrant economy through the provision of professional and technical skills, as well as having the responsibility of helping fight poverty and supporting social inclusion. Increasingly, colleges will work collaboratively and in partnership with other organisations in the public, private, and voluntary and community sectors to deliver their services to learners, employers and communities to maximum effect.
Working alongside Belfast City Council, the college has delivered the Achieve programme, encouraging young people to participate in STEM-focused FE programmes and SME support programmes, including Generate, which is focused on supply chain opportunities in the renewables sector, and Super Connected, which provides support to access high-grade broadband connectivity. The college is one of the lead partners, alongside the council, in the Springvale multi-agency group, has an increased involvement in the design and delivery of learning solutions in, for example, the Girdwood community hub and works on the Urban Villages programme to better understand and target specific pockets of educational disadvantage.
Mar is gnách, a LeasCheann Comhairle, gabhaim buíochas leat agus leis an Aire as an fhreagra chuimsitheach sin. I thank the Minister for a comprehensive response. I know that he has done groundbreaking work with Belfast City Council and Belfast Met on the Leading the City to Work programme and the E3 campus.
Given that the work that the Belfast Met carries out is often with those who are on the margins and those who perhaps did not have other education opportunities, given the fact that there are 20,000 students there and given the fact that Marie-Thérèse McGivern and her team have devoted themselves to making sure that Belfast Met is central to the education story of the city —
It is 110 years since Belfast Met was established. Will you look at finding a way this year — you have only a few weeks left, or maybe you will be back in a bigger post — to mark and celebrate its contribution to the city and all our successes over that period?
I thank the Member for his comments and assure him that my current post is big enough. I am not too sure what he is alluding to.
In so far as the Member was asking a question, I agree with his comments about the important partnerships that have been built between Belfast Met and the city council. It is important that we celebrate the contribution of Belfast Met. Of course, the current college is not 110 years old; it is of a much more recent vintage. Many of its predecessors go back to the turn of the last century, so it has a long and illustrious history of supporting vocational and technical professional education in the city of Belfast. When we look at how we are advancing the economy today, many of us, including the Member, make allusions to the Belfast of the turn of the last century and how it was a world economic powerhouse. In many sectors, it was world-leading. It was not just close to the top but at the very top. In many ways, that inspires us to achieve the vision that we have for the future of Northern Ireland to be one of the best regions in the world and one of the top performers in sectors in which we have comparative strengths.