In recent years the financial and professional services sector has seen significant growth in Northern Ireland. I want to harness this success and develop the opportunity that the sector provides for new employment opportunities. This is particularly important in the current economic climate.
We have witnessed a number of multinational companies in this sector choosing to invest in Northern Ireland. A key determinant of these investment decisions has been access to the skills and talent available in Northern Ireland. My department is supporting the development of that skills base further through the delivery of our Assured Skills programme.
The Assured Skills Academies are a partnership between government, business and the further and higher education sectors that deliver industry-relevant pre-employment training to participants.
After completing an industry-focussed Assured Skills Academy, participants are equipped with the skills they need to kick-start a career in the sector and are guaranteed an interview with the company involved.
Over the past year academies have provided world class training in areas such as cyber security, cloud computing, robotics and data visualisation. Participants also have the opportunity to develop their business skills in client management, communication and analytics.
Further and higher education institutions that deliver the training are at the same time building their own capacity in these fast-moving areas and further cementing their key role in providing the skilled people that employers need.
In the past two years Assured Skills Academies have trained, or are in the process of training, over 800 people, with more than 600 securing employment to date. 85% of those employed to date have been hired by financial and professional services companies.
We have worked with major multinationals including Microsoft, PwC and Deloitte, as well as other successful financial and professional services companies such as FinTrU, Alchemy and Danske Bank.
The coronavirus pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on all aspects of life and our economy, but I am committed to doing all that I can to mitigate the impact. Investment in skills will be a key priority as we begin the process of rebuilding a vibrant and thriving economy here. The success of our academies and the competitive advantage we have in the financial and professional services sector provides us with a strong foundation.
We are seeing the sector adapt to the current circumstances. Working collaboratively with FinTrU we have completed an online application process and established a 'virtual classroom' with Ulster University to train 20 participants in our next Academy.
With financial and professional services companies adapting to the current circumstances, utilising new and innovative technologies, I am confident that we can create opportunities in the time ahead.
More information on the Assured Skills programme is available at www.economy-ni.gov.uk/articles/assured-skills-programme