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Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots MLA today delivered an economic boost for rural residents in the Newry, Mourne & Down and Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Council areas when he launched the £65k Prosper + Project.

The project, which has been developed in conjunction with the Southern Regional College (SRC), operates on the basis on two strands. Strand one offers mentoring support and strand two provides accredited training for economically inactive and low paid workers living within rural areas. DAERA has provided funding of £65,000 for the project, from the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Programme, while SRC meets the administration costs.

Minister Poots said: “Training opportunities are particularly hard to find in rural areas. To this end Prosper is a big success story, delivering mentoring opportunities for 100 young people from rural post-primary schools in Banbridge, Crossmaglen, Newtownhamilton and Tandragee areas engaged in the SRC Schools’ Partnership Programme, and accredited training for a further 70 unemployed and low paid workers across the region.

“This project is an excellent example of DAERA working with other public sector bodies to deliver benefits for rural communities. My officials will work with other colleges across Northern Ireland to determine the potential to extend the project to other areas.”

Economy Minister Diane Dodds added her support for the initiative: “Developing the local skills base is a key facet of Northern Ireland’s economic recovery and it is important that people of all ages have access to the opportunities they need to upskill and reskill, particularly in the wake of Covid-19.

“My Department is already supporting people impacted by the pandemic to access courses at the local further education colleges, and I recently announced a significant apprenticeships recovery package to help people continue to progress their apprenticeships and assist more businesses to create apprenticeship opportunities.

"I very much welcome the Prosper+ scheme, which adds to this mix of skills-based support measures and which will deliver further valuable opportunities to people in rural areas. I am also pleased that Southern Regional College is involved, bringing considerable expertise in lifelong learning, and that DAERA is exploring options with the other FE colleges to expand the initiative."