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EU exit used as mask for skills deficit, claims tech firm founder

Problems: Stephen Rice
Problems: Stephen Rice

By Staff Reporter

Brexit is being used as a smokescreen for fundamental flaws in Northern Ireland's skills supply chain, a Belfast-based workforce specialist has claimed.

Stephen Rice's tech company Upskill Enterprise is set to launch a new web-based tool in the USA to help businesses understand their workforce and direct them to affordable and relevant interventions.

He said the valuable data will enable state and federal agencies to set the right skills agenda.

Mr Rice said that while the problems are on a much bigger scale in the United States, parallels can be drawn with Northern Ireland.

The chief executive said fundamental changes must be made to what he labelled an outdated, excluding and expensive education and skills system here.

"There is no doubt Brexit and the free movement of labour will have a massive impact on businesses specifically within the agri-food, hospitality, health and construction sectors," he said.

"Part of the reason for this is that migration of labour has served as a sticking plaster over the poor supply chain from education into our labour market."

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Pointing the finger at the Northern Ireland Skills Strategy, Mr Rice said: "The skills barometer is largely measured on academic achievement and is based on labour market intelligence gathered from mostly bigger businesses who represent 1.1% of the local economy.

"We are encouraging and recruiting students on academic achievement not relevant to the labour market needs.

"Plus the strategy covers a 10-year period in a world where skills needs can change on a quarterly basis."

Belfast Telegraph