Belfast Telegraph

Plea for more measures to avoid skills shortage

By Clare Weir

Two thirds of companies running apprenticeships in Northern Ireland plan to offer even more opportunities to young jobseekers.

However, firms here have called for more measures to avoid a threatened skills shortage in the region in years to come.

Earlier this year the Belfast Telegraph's campaign to create 50 new jobs in 50 days through apprenticeships was achieved 20 days before target. The paper issued a rallying call to local firms to take up the challenge to offer Northern Ireland's young people apprentice positions.

The latest CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey, which had 291 respondents, 66 of which have employees in Northern Ireland, found that firms in the region have a growing need for higher skills – with 79% expecting demand to increase in the next three to five years.

However, 59% of companies said they were not confident they will be able to access enough highly skilled workers to meet their needs. And only 60% of firms in Northern Ireland which already run apprenticeships plan to increase them in the years ahead.

The survey found that too many are still reluctant to get involved, with respondents calling for more Government reforms, including new programmes that are more relevant to business needs (46%); cutting red tape (38%) and routing Government grants directly to employers (23%).

Nigel Smyth, CBI Northern Ireland regional director, said that Northern Ireland will face a shortage in skilled technicians in the years ahead, if more chances are not created for young people and for existing workers.

"The business community is very supportive of the current direction of the review of apprenticeships. Moving towards the truly employer-led model that industry wants to see is a genuinely positive development."

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK and Core Markets, added: "The challenge now is to grasp the nettle so we bring employment and education opportunities together to meet the urgent social and economic need of creating a more highly-skilled workforce in Northern Ireland and across the UK."

Belfast Telegraph