My Eye – The NI Skills Gap
With the Apprenticeship Levy making headlines, and a major new seminar on skills upcoming in January, Account Executive Jack Gibson focuses on the skills gap in Northern Ireland.
Following June’s Brexit vote, international trade has been a hot topic in the news.
Just this week, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster is taking a visit to China. And Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire is undertaking a visit to the United States.
Both visits are spurred by a desire to increase Northern Ireland’s foreign trade and direct investment. Such visits also build strong links that are useful for tourism – capitalising on world-class tourism propositions like the Titanic Centre.
But these visits, though valuable, can only ever be one part of the story. Without a skilled workforce Northern Ireland simply can’t hope to compete on a global stage.
The cost of doing business in NI is low enough to entice major international companies to these shores. Baker & McKenzie, Allen and Overy and Concentrix are just some of those lured here in recent years.
However, for companies not looking for legal graduates, or those with general graduate skills, finding skilled workers can be tough.
At the high end of the skills scale, we have a recognised shortage in STEM skills – vital for making the most of high-growth industries. And, at the other end of the scale, a higher proportion of our working-age population have no qualifications than anywhere else in the UK.
The Apprenticeship Levy, much-talked about in the news, has the potential to further endanger our skills base. Essentially a simple tax on large employers, it is likely to be a burden on the ability of major NI companies to train workers.
With Northern Ireland’s continued access to the single market, its largest export market, now uncertain, it’s never been more important to ensure we address these issues.
On 26 January Chambré Public Affairs, in association with People Plus NI, have arranged a landmark seminar on the skills gap. Featuring insight and analysis from business leaders and training providers, and with Departmental participation confirmed, it promises a meaningful contribution to this vital issue.