Employment Minister Sir Reg Empey visited an east Belfast air defence factory to congratulate staff who have completed a business improvement scheme.
Staff at Thales obtained the Business Improvement Techniques (B-IT), a vocational qualification funded by the Department for Employment and Learning.
The scheme gives employees a platform to demonstrate that they can develop quality, cost and delivery improvements in the workplace which can lead to reduced costs and improved productivity.
Around 130 Thales staff finished B-IT training, with 82 staff successfully completing their qualification. A further 13 employees will complete the NVQ in early 2010.
Sir Reg said: “My department is about people, skills and jobs. People are at the heart of a dynamic and innovative and sustainable economy. However, the skills of our workforce play a vital role in raising productivity and increasing the competitiveness of Northern Ireland companies.
“That is why I put in place the Business Improvement Techniques programme. I think it is critical that my department helps companies deliver improvements in individual company manufacturing processes and it is especially valuable when the improve- ments are developed by the company workforce.”
Thales, which manufactures complex weapons for the aerospace, defence and security markets worldwide, employs over 500 people in Belfast.
Managing director David Beatty said: “In these difficult economic times we are pleased to report an upturn in our business with the recruitment of over 65 new employees in Northern Ireland.
“However, as we operate in a highly competitive world market we must continue to seek improvements in all our activities and the B-IT awards have provided an extra competitive edge to the highly skilled manufacturing workforce that we have in Northern Ireland.”
Sir Reg also opened a new training facility at Complete Construction Training Services in east Belfast.
CCTS runs training, assessment and certification schemes for the construction sector and specialises in gas, oil, electrical and health and safety training.
The Minister said the facility was “a fantastic testimony of CCTS’s commitment to meeting the needs of local employers and raising the level of skills in Northern Ireland”.