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The Economy Minister has highlighted the important role the North West will play in rebuilding the economy during a series of visits in the area.

Minister Diane Dodds said: “I am very committed to the North West and my visit today has confirmed the innovation and determination I was already aware of among the business community.

“My Economic Recovery Action Plan sets out the actions I will take to deliver a more competitive, inclusive and greener economy. I want to support people right across Northern Ireland into new and better jobs and increase their skills and the North West is key in these plans.”

The Minister’s first visit was to meet Catalyst’s senior executive team at its North West Campus at Fort George. The Innovation Centre provides a platform for potential entrepreneurs and high tech companies to stimulate and nurture innovation activity and grow their businesses.

Minister Dodds then met with the Eden Project Foyle team at Brook Hall Estate on Culmore Road. This major eco-tourism and regeneration project on the banks of the River Foyle is developing plans to open access to 225 acres of gardens and outdoor activities to attract a high number of visitors to the area and boost the local economy.

The Minister had a working lunch with representatives from Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.

Her North West visit concluded with meeting with management and apprentices at Foyle Foods in Lisahally. The company is one of the largest recruiters of apprentices in the area.

Diane Dodds said: “I really enjoyed meeting with the apprentices at Foyle Foods and seeing the great work they are doing. Apprenticeships are at the centre of my long term plans for the Northern Ireland economy.

“I made a commitment in my Economic Recovery Action Plan to making apprenticeships available to more people and sectors including amending the current age criteria. Age should not be a barrier to lifelong learning.”

This week is Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Week and an apprenticeship recovery package worth more than £26million was announced by the Minister last September. It includes support for employers to take on more apprentices and payments to employers who return and retain apprentices who have been on furlough.