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Excellence in training recognised at NTA awards

Northern Ireland's finest providers of workplace training were recognised for their excellence at this year's National Training Awards.

A total of 21 trophies were awarded in front of an audience of business leaders and private and public sector representatives at the Europa Hotel event in Belfast last night.

The ceremony, hosted by BBC presenter Stephen Watson, honoured 15 regional winners, with five of these winners also receiving UK national winner status and going on to represent Northern Ireland at the UK National Ceremony in London in December.

These will be Nacco Materials Handling Ltd, which won the large employer and 'Now is the time' categories, Bangor Academy and Sixth Form College, which won the medium employer category and Rostulla School, which won the small employer category.

Individual winner Maureen McKeague will also be heading to the capital.

Speaking at the ceremony, Employment and Learning Minister, Sir Reg Empey, said that all the winners are exemplars in the field of training and skills development. "It is hugely encouraging to see that our organisations and individuals recognise the vital role that training plays, not only in increasing business performance, but also in boosting Northern Ireland's skills base," he said.

"In what are difficult times for the economy, it is important to note that companies that invest in the skills of their staff are two-and-half-times more likely to survive. Indeed, experience has shown that companies that invest in the development of their people during times of economic downturn are best placed to gain competitive edge when recovery comes.

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"I urge all businesses to follow the example of tonight's winners in reaping the benefits of workforce development," said Sir Reg.

The National Training Awards, organised by the Department for Employment and Learning, recognise and reward excellence in training.

The awards are open to organisations of all sizes and from any industry sector, training organisations and individuals, and the programme allows Northern Ireland's businesses and people to showcase their achievements.