Belfast Telegraph

We all have a part to play in restoring market confidence

By Toni Forrester

As we await another crisis budget in the Republic, we can be confident that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan will again hit the nation hard.

While we all know these measures are necessary for revenue and for the future of the economy it is clear that individuals and businesses will again feel the pain.

The main headlines however have concentrated on the redundancies and closures of large businesses and we've had our share of those in the North West.

However in many of the reports we hear public sector complaining that they are suffering.

Our evidence shows that the private sector is feeling as much pain but we don't hear so much about the many small businesses that have paid off staff, that have put staff on protective notice or that have decreased working hours.

We need to put confidence into the economy and we all have a part to play. Most people now realise that there is and will be pain for all but we are now realising more importantly that we need to start to work together for a better future.

We are gaining nothing internally or externally by setting private sector against public sector, this is a time for joint effort.

While there is much discussion and divided opinion among the experts as to how deep and how long the recession will be all experts tend to agree that we will emerge in time.

Businesses are adjusting, innovating, looking at new partnerships and ways of doing business and by all accounts we will all be leaner when we come out the other side.

The “ideas” campaign that comes to an end this week has already got people thinking more positively and we will see new opportunities emerging.

Project Kelvin, which will deliver high speed broadband to the North West, offers huge opportunities for investment in the North West and we need to be ready for these opportunities and for the future.

The North West will look different and we need to concentrate on the sectors, industries and skills that will bring us towards a knowledge based smart economy.

We all agree that the North West must encourage more growth oriented businesses with ambition and drive, we must become experts and pioneer leading edge technology projects but we can only do that with an improved skills base.

The third level courses in science, technology and engineering are not being filled so there is a dearth of high end graduates with suitable skills to fulfil this ambition.

This skills shortage is already having an impact on large employers in the region and it will continue to impact on this region's ability to attract and retain the types of industries we need for the future.

There have been many discussions as to why these courses are not seen as attractive to our young people but it goes back to a fundamental point that we need to be able to persuade students, that there are attractive careers in these fields.

Careers teachers and parents can play a huge role in encouraging our young people to look beyond the degrees leading to the standard professions or of taking the option of the generalised degree in softer subjects, science, technology and engineering can lead to a fantastic career.

The debate will continue but as we move from the current crisis state through to the next phase and start focussing on the future we need to address this very real skills shortage through a strategic, cross departmental and cross border approach.

Toni Forrester is CEO of Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce. For more information on Chamber activities contact her on 00353-74 9125505, or 00353-87-2130495.

Belfast Telegraph