Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

We have professionals – now let's look after others

Proof, if needed, that we're still far from out of economic trouble came this week from Davy, the Dublin and Belfast-based stock broking and wealth management firm.

It launched its overview of the Northern Ireland economy yesterday and it included lots of insightful commentary, not least because it was able to have a pop at the institutions who generally present these kinds of things: the banks.

One of the biggest sticking points Davy Ireland believes is holding back the Northern Ireland economy is the lack of transparency when it comes to debts against property and also around bank lending.

It points out that without knowing where we stand it's very difficult to try and predict where we're going to. A bit like trying to read a map but not having any landmarks (or GPS) to find your location.

One point which came out of economist Conall Mac Coille's report was another old chestnut, skills.

We are right down the league table when it comes to the proportion of people with GSCEs or above – a fairly pathetic 22% compared to just 11% across the UK as a whole.

That throws up the potential for a worrying skills gap if we didn't manage to lower our corporation tax or even managed to attract a fraction more foreign direct investment.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that's already the case with too many teachers, lawyers and doctors being pumped out by an education system unaligned to business needs.

Educational institutions will counter with the fact they're merely meeting a demand for such courses and that's the nub of the problem.

A culture of pushing our children towards the professions means we're ignoring the needs of industry, and indeed some hefty salaries.

We can't see the wood for the trees when wanting the best for the next generation and the economy.

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