Belfast Telegraph

More skills needed to attract new employers

By Clare Weir

Northern Ireland needs more skills, not more jobs, according to a leading local businessman.

Bro McFerran, managing director of software firm Allstate NI, said that devolution of corporation tax would be another big step on the road to financial recovery.

Mr McFerran was addressing the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants annual lunch and said that jobs alone would not deliver the sea change that the economy needs.

"We have a good combination of talent, cultural alignment, work ethic, attitude and cost-base here but we don't yet have the sustainable skills that will attract large numbers of specialised businesses and global multi-national companies which offer our workforce high value careers," he said.

"The devolution of corporation tax powers would help to attract inward investment and with events last week including the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and the Economic Advisory Group's support for the initiative, the campaign for change is continuing to gain momentum.

"However if we do not promote a culture of, and create a strategy for, developing a highly skilled professional workforce we will have failed in capitalising upon the undoubted opportunities that tax setting powers will provide. Devolution of corporation tax and a highly skilled workforce is a winning combination.

"We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit the ground running by delivering both simultaneously.

"If we can achieve this the rewards for our economy will be far-reaching."

Mr McFerran said that his own company has invested in the training and development of new recruits with 500 brand new IT jobs being filled by graduates from a non-IT discipline.

"Companies can act now to assist in the process of building a more skilled workforce which will help to sustain their business as well as growing the economy through training and development of their employees," he said.

"It is only through a collaborative, co-ordinated and concerted approach to deliver high value, sustainable skilled careers for Northern Ireland that we will deliver a strong robust economy for the future."

Maria Morgan, president of the association's Ulster Members Network, said that another challenge for employers will be to keep high performing individuals motivated and committed.