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Developing the skills of Northern Ireland’s workforce is essential to both the short-term and longer-term future of our economy, Minister Diane Dodds said today.

Speaking during a debate in the Assembly on her Skills Strategy, the Economy Minister told MLAs:

“The Skills Strategy has a key role to play in addressing not only the short term challenges arising as a consequence of COVID- 19, but also in addressing the long term weaknesses within our economy.

“We have an opportunity to consider more efficient ways to deliver training and development, particularly given the move to online delivery as a consequence of the pandemic. We need to change attitudes to learning and upskilling. Our economy is changing very quickly, with automation and digitisation transforming the workplace.

“It is essential that employers and individuals recognise the need to invest time and money in people.”

The Minister told the Assembly that skills is a key pillar in her Economic Recovery Action Plan – launched recently – to drive forward the process of rebuilding after the pandemic.

Responding to an Assembly Motion from the Economy Committee on its micro inquiry on the Skills Strategy and economic output, the Minister spoke of her intention to launch a suite of skills interventions that will assist individuals gain skills in areas such as digital technologies, as well as employability skills such as leadership and management. She told the Assembly this will be a £15m investment over the next three years.

And she added it was vital that future employees had access to the information they need to make career choices

The Minister concluded: “The development of a new skills system in Northern Ireland is a major undertaking, but it is an imperative if our economy is to flourish over the next decade. That is why I am excited by the opportunities that the new Skills Strategy provides.”

The Department for Economy Skills Strategy will be published for consultation shortly.