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Assured Skills

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 25th October 2016.

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Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP 3:00 pm, 25th October 2016

I agree with the Member: skills is an incredibly important part — sometimes a differentiating part — of Northern Ireland's proposition to inward investors in particular. I mentioned one investment in my first answer in which it was a differentiator. It was the difference-maker, and it was what landed the investment in Northern Ireland rather than somewhere else. We have our skills barometer in place, and we have the work of the MATRIX panel, which has identified growth sectors in our economy, particularly where there are skills needs that will evolve when corporation tax is reduced. That will hopefully bring growth in existing sectors of our economy but also in some different ones.

There is a strong evidence base that we are following. We have a future skills programme coming into place that will, in the first instance, have 240 people going through six colleges. That is across Northern Ireland and not limited to, say, the greater Belfast area. The programme will be specifically in data analytics and cybersecurity in the first instance, which are both existing strong sectors but ones in which there is huge potential moving forward. We will consider other sectors, and other sectors are being considered, including life and health sciences, which are a huge part of the Member's Upper Bann constituency. As I said, skills are central to our attractiveness as a region to invest in, and I think that the Assured Skills programme and the future skills programme that we are developing will be key to achieving success.