SDLP pledges digital training academy in Stormont election manifesto
The creation of a digital training academy and reversing the cut in student numbers will be key SDLP priorities following the Stormont election, the party said.
More young people would be trained in computer coding and universities would be revitalised to help match skills to jobs, the manifesto said.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said too many young people had been forced to emigrate to find work.
He said: "As well as plans to support the creation of nearly 40,000 jobs, we will put an end to the economic madness which has seen investment in our universities cut."
Over the next five years the SDLP would reverse Stormont's recent cuts in student numbers and increase investment in third-level education and apprenticeships. The party also vowed to reduce the fees that students paid at universities.
Mr Eastwood added: "The North cannot continue losing some of its best and brightest. Our people are our greatest resource and the future of this economy is diminished by every one of those people that is forced to leave."
Last year, Ulster University announced plans to scrap more than 1,000 student places over three years.
Mr Eastwood said he plans to establish Northern Ireland's first Digital Technology and Coding Academy.
"With technology like Uber and Airbnb (taxis and apartments sourced through the internet) emerging, today we are already seeing a glimpse of the jobs of tomorrow.
"I want people, young and old, from Northern Ireland to have the skills for these jobs as a matter of fact, not as a matter of luck."
The SDLP in government would seek to grow the export market to create jobs.
The leader claimed under Sinn Fein and DUP stewardship Northern Ireland risked becoming the stagnant region of Ireland.
Mr Eastwood alleged Sinn Fein had let its voters down by ducking the economy ministries when they were distributed amongst the powersharing coalition.
"In nine years of government, even though it has been theirs to choose, they have failed to take up any important economic ministry.
"For nearly a decade they have entirely surrendered the North's economic policy to the DUP."
A Department for Employment and Learning spokeswoma n said in 2015-16 the overall higher education budget was reduced.
"This has had a significant impact on the number of student places available in Northern Ireland, with over 500 lost this year rising to over 2,000 in the next few years."