Investing in innovation and skills “gives businesses competitive edge”

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Friday, October 4th, 2019

The Department for the Economy is encouraging local businesses to invest in the skills development of their workforce.

Delivered by the six Further Education Colleges, InnovateUs and Skills Focus are just two of the Department’s skills programmes on offer to support business development.


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InnovateUs, fully funded by the Department, is a programme to help small businesses, with fewer than 50 employees, to develop innovative products, processes and services.




Skills Focus provides 75% funding to upskill the existing workforce with accredited qualifications at Level 2 and above, in companies of fewer than 250 employees.

Graeme Wilkinson, Director of Skills at DfE, said, “Skills and innovation are key to economic growth. However, the Northern Ireland Skills Barometer states that over the next decade, we will be undersupplied with appropriately skilled workers, with the largest supply gaps likely to emerge in the mid-tier skills levels.

“There will also be an oversupply of low-level qualifications and only 10% of job opportunities will be available to individuals with a qualification level equivalent to National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 2 or below.



He continued, “It is imperative that we address these challenges and so by investing in skills we’re investing in the future of the Northern Ireland workforce and in the prosperity and sustainability of the local economy.

“Supporting companies to have a highly skilled and innovative workforce will contribute to their increased productivity, profit and sustainable growth. 

“Last year over 2,500 employees gained accredited qualifications under the Skills Focus programme while over 400 innovation projects were undertaken by small businesses through InnovateUs.



Graeme added, “These programmes show how the Department is supporting businesses to upskill, innovate and compete in the current market.”

Michael McCaul, Operations Manager at Omagh-based JMG Systems, said, “I recommend Skills Focus to other companies because we found it be to a great benefit.

“Our teams were able to work together on projects to solve problems in ways they had never thought of before, and this further strengthened the working relationships with each other. The individuals involved in the programme are now more proactive looking for improvement opportunities and propose these on a regular basis.”



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