Belfast Telegraph

Investing in talent of our young people key

Editor's Viewpoint

What is this place's greatest asset? We don't have great amounts of natural resources, but we do have something that has enriched many parts of the world down through the centuries - our people.

For a place that is a small dot on the globe we have sent forth people who have reached the highest echelons of society in countries as diverse as New Zealand and the United States.

Our challenge nowadays, as our interview with Patrick Johnston, vice-chancellor of Queen's University reveals, is to ensure that that talent is kept at home and helps us create a prosperous society for the benefit of all of us.

He is an exemplar of what such talent can achieve.

From his home in Londonderry he gained the knowledge and experience in cancer research and treatment in his work in the United States to transform cancer care in Northern Ireland when he returned here. Such was his reputation that he attracted other world-class researchers to create a hub of excellence in that speciality.

There is no reason to believe that he is an unique talent. We have generations of brilliant students but, as he points out, we are a net exporter of talent, unlike other regions of the UK.

Almost four in ten of our brightest brains go to study abroad because of lack of investment in our universities. Most of those will not return and their expertise and the knowledge they gain in other countries will be lost to us.

Unlike Mr Johnston, they will not use the advances they are exposed to abroad to improve our services in a wide variety of fields here.

If we do not invest in our talent - and there are many companies developed here which are now world leaders in their fields - we are denying ourselves the opportunity to create a vibrant, prosperous economy.

We cannot even claim to be a low wage manufacturing base any more - emerging African, eastern European and Far Eastern countries can easily undercut us - so the future depends on creating high value, groundbreaking enterprises and services.

That means investing in third level education, ensuring that our best brains remain at home and see a future for their vision and enterprise, just as Professor Johnston did.

Of course, there are huge demands on what is a relatively small public purse, but we must ensure that what is spent is spent on the assets which give the best return. And that is our talent.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph