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The Assured Skills programme is continuing to deliver for Northern Ireland. Alongside support provided by Invest Northern Ireland, Assured Skills support continues to be instrumental in securing new jobs for Northern Ireland, such as the 94 support engineering jobs and research and development jobs recently announced by Metaswitch.
The Assured Skills offer has many benefits for companies. They can find employees in what is commonly a new labour market, and any training developed is bespoke, helping to find people with the right skills and attributes for their company. Trainees are also more productive more quickly, with a consequent positive effect on the company's bottom line. Furthermore, networks are established with local further education colleges and universities, with the potential for ongoing links to mutual benefit.
To date, there have been 22 company projects through Assured Skills, and, when they are fully realised, some 5,704 jobs will be created. That will benefit the local economy by £144 million each year. In addition, Assured Skills supports short-term interventions to meet identified needs of existing employers in Northern Ireland and to help unemployed graduates find suitable employment. The Software Testers' Academy has been the most successful intervention to date. However, we have also used our academy model to meet needs in areas such as cloud computing, data analytics, financial services, 2D animation and computer numerical control machining. That has benefited companies such as HighWire Press, Deloitte, PwC, EY, Alexander Mann Solutions, FinTrU, Magellan Aerospace and WhiteHat Security, to name but a few. Assured Skills is an innovative and responsive programme that has made a big impact in a short period. However, the programme is continuing to evolve, and it is my intention to keep Assured Skills at the leading edge of economic interventions.