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School building could secure 5,000 jobs

News that the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) is to embark on a scheme to build new schools here will underpin 5,000 jobs in Northern Ireland's construction sector, according to an industry body.

The Construction Employers Federation (CEF) also said each pound invested in the construction project should generate £2.84m in the wider economy.

"We welcome the fact that the minister has given advance notice of the specific school building projects that will hit the ground in the first half of 2013. It gives the construction industry some certainty," John Armstrong, CEF managing director, said.

Eighteen schools across Northern Ireland will receive new facilities as part of a £173m investment in the schools estate by DEL.

But announcing the project yesterday, Education Minister John O'Dowd said that funding isn't available for all investment needed in Northern Ireland's schools.

"The need for investment far exceeds the funding available," he said.

"While I would like to be in a position to fund everything that needs doing now, I must work within the budget available. This means difficult decisions on future investment plans."

John Armstrong said that could mean some schools aren't in proper condition.

"The £173m announced forms part of the department's £512m capital budget announced in March 2011 and does not address the funding shortfall.

"Unless increased funds are found, many schools will remain in an unfit condition."