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Exporter slams UU decision to close languages school


Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

A Co Tyrone company which exports machinery to 80 countries around the world has hit out at the decision by Ulster University to close its modern languages school.

CDE Global in Cookstown, which posted pre-tax profits of £1.6m in 2014, said language skills were "crucial to its business development".

The firm employs 140 people in the design, manufacture and sale of sand and aggregate cleaning equipment from construction to wine bottle manufacturers.

And the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce also said the closure of the department was a setback to exporters.

CDE Global managing director Brendan McGurgan said the UU's decision - compounded by Queen's earlier decision to axe its German course - would have a direct impact on his business.

The UU has said existing language students at its school in Coleraine would be able to finish their courses, as would those who were starting in first year this month.

But it will ultimately close down following an £8.6m cut to its subsidy from the Department for Employment and Learning.

Queen's University announced six years ago it was closing its German department.

Mr McGurgan said: "We export 100% of our equipment, with 75% outside the UK, and we rely heavily on local people who have a working proficiency of foreign languages to build relationships with clients all over the world.

"We're in the early stages of a development strategy across a number of export markets and we take pride in being able to offer new recruits the opportunity to travel and secure fast-tracked careers. In this year alone we have sold equipment as far afield as the US and Canada, Brazil, Australia, India, Iceland and Sweden to name a few."

And Mr McGurgan added: "Languages are essential to our business development."

He said the changes to languages provision would create "greater challenges" for its recruitment.

"Northern Ireland already lacks strong language skills and this latest development is a further knock for exporting companies."

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ann McGregor said the closure of the UU department would mean "extremely limited" teaching of languages at higher education level.

She said: "Given the drive to increase exports this is very concerning and will add to the export challenge already experienced by companies who also find it a challenge to source staff with international sales training."

Belfast Telegraph