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Economy Minister Diane Dodds has welcomed confirmation of funding for skills and promoting Northern Ireland through the UK Government’s ‘New Deal for Northern Ireland’.

The first allocation of funding from the £400million package of support includes £15million for investment in a range of skills interventions. Initiatives include:

  • funding people to upskill and reskill in priority economic areas;
  • leadership and management support for SMEs and microbusinesses;
  • postgraduate training; and
  • training in customs, trade and logistics.

A further £8million will be invested in expanding Northern Ireland’s footprint in key locations around the world to promote local products and services and win new business for NI companies. It will support the establishment of between five and ten new Invest NI offices in locations including Great Britain, Europe, the Americas, India, Middle East and Africa (IMEA) and Asia Pacific.

Speaking about the funding, the Minister said: “I welcome the announcement today by the Secretary of State. It is the first tranche of additional funding from the UK Government’s ‘New Deal for Northern Ireland’ and will support our trade, investment and skills priorities as we seek to rebuild and renew our economy.

“The expansion of Invest NI’s in-market representation in a range of locations around the world will provide vital market intelligence and on-the-ground expertise for Northern Ireland companies to maximise their ability to succeed in new markets and grow through increased trade.

“Skills will be a key element of the economic recovery. I therefore also welcome the funding for skills interventions which will further assist my Department as we work to boost the skills base in Northern Ireland. This aligns with the Economic Recovery Action Plan I recently announced.”

The Minister added: “I will continue to engage with the Secretary of State to ensure Northern Ireland benefits in full from the package of additional funding announced by the UK Government last December.”

Jackie Henry, Chair of the Skills Strategy Advisory Group and Senior Partner at Deloitte Northern Ireland, said: “This is good news – a high skilled workforce is an essential component of economic recovery. It is what attracts companies from across the UK, Europe and the globe to invest in Northern Ireland. That is why I welcome this useful injection of funds into skills development. Many would-be employers and future employers will reap the benefit of it. However, I would encourage both public and private sectors to remain fully focused on maximising our skills base in order to accelerate economy recovery.”