COVID-19: Support for NEETs

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 29th September 2020.

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Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP 2:00 pm, 29th September 2020

It is an important question. I think that the House will agree that, through my actions as Minister for the Economy, we have invested significantly in apprenticeships, youth training and the skills agenda in Northern Ireland. That is not just important for holding what we have but for developing the economy of the future and the skills pipeline that will go into that. That is an important aspect. The Department has been proactive in looking not just at apprenticeships but at careers delivery and other short-term interventions that will help to build the Northern Ireland economy, build skills and engage our young people into the future.

I just want to focus for one second on one of those programmes, which has been very important, namely the assured skills academies that we have run. Those have been very successful in delivering proper training and jobs for young people in difficult circumstances. I refer to the Microsoft cybersecurity academy, which was completed in Northern Ireland on 12 June, delivered at the height of lockdown and delivered completely online. Of the 24 young people who engaged in that skills academy, 23 found employment out of it. Those long-term skills programmes and the ability to be flexible and match skills to labour market demand is really important.

With your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will answer the other part of the Member's question. It is really important that, while we build our skills base and support companies in Northern Ireland, we recognise the importance of foreign direct investment in Northern Ireland. Since April, I have announced over 1,000 new jobs, even in the midst of incredibly difficult economic circumstances in Northern Ireland. Six hundred of those new jobs have been announced by North American and US companies. That shows the importance of those companies investing in Northern Ireland. I look forward to talking to the special envoy to Northern Ireland tomorrow and building the relationships that allow those skills and job pipelines to continue.