One of the single biggest challenges for the NI Executive is to promote youth employment. I was glad therefore to host the Minister for Employment & Learning, Dr Stephen Farry MLA, the then Chair of the Assembly Committee for Employment & Learning Basil McCrea MLA, Carol Fitzsimons, CEO of Young Enterprise NI and Fiona McAteer, Researcher for Basil McCrea MLA at the latest NIABT breakfast briefing.
The Minister for Employment talked about how the Youth Employment Scheme was helping young people in Northern Ireland gain vital work experience and sustainable employment. Dr Farry also highlighted the DEL NEETS Strategy Collaboration and Innovation Fund of £9m, which is intended to assist the community and voluntary sector to help bring young people closer to the labour market.
The Minister praised employers for rising to the challenge of providing work placements and opportunities to support young unemployed people. He particularly welcomed employers who are getting involved in the Youth Employment Scheme by providing sector relevant work experience opportunities which are supported by employer subsidies.
Former Chairperson of the Assembly Employment & Learning Committee, Basil McCrea MLA paid particular attention to apprenticeships and the Graduate Accelerated Programme (GAP) Scheme. Basil drew on his own personal experience of the GAP Scheme.
Fiona McAteer, who now works as a full time researcher for Basil McCrea MLA as a result of a six month GAP placement, provided some real life experience of the Scheme and how it helped her to gain full time employment.
Carol Fitzsimons, CEO for Young Enterprise NI, spoke about the need to listen to young people and to encourage self-employment, business start-up and entrepreneurial risk at the earliest possible age. Carol encouraged businesses to recruit on competency and train on skills in order to give a generation of capable and enthusiastic young people the chance to gain the experience they need for 21st Century employment.
All panellists made valuable contributions on this important issue and the briefing concluded with a question and answer session. There was a robust debate and a commitment from the Minister to continue to engage with members of the NIABT to ensure that the NI Executive, MLAs and the business community work together to increase youth employment in Northern Ireland.
Members took the opportunity to attend the “Debating Europe seminar” on the 07 February 2013 which tackled “The implications for the UK of the sovereign debt crisis and Eurozone economic governance”.
Sammy Wilson MP MLA, Minister for Finance and Personnel provided the opening NIABT briefing for 2013, where the focus was on looking ahead to the economic outlook for the year ahead. A transcript of the briefing can be found here.
Members took the opportunity to attend the seminar at Queen’s University Belfast on the 17th January 2013. Watch the video below which includes the introduction by Professor David Phinnemore, main Speaker Dr John Barry with a Q&A Session & Closing speech from John Rooney, NIABT Vice Chairperson.
Members of the NIABT recently joined the Assembly’s Enterprise, Trade and Investment (ETI) Committee and the Engineering Policy Group Northern Ireland to host an important event highlighting the importance of Research and Development (R&D) to the local economy.
Capitalising on the ETI Committee’s recent report “Developing the Northern Ireland Economy through Innovation, Research and Development”, the event attracted a number of high profile speakers from the worlds of academia, commerce and industry. Key considerations included the economic importance of an enhanced strategy for R&D in Northern Ireland and on what can be done to plan for a more flexible science, technology, engineering and mathematics trained workforce.
Chairperson of the ETI Committee Patsy McGlone MLA outlined how the recent Treasury consultation on rebalancing our economy noted the particularly low-level of business expenditure on R&D, and how we compare to other small economies throughout Europe.
Mr McGlone noted that, over the past five years, business expenditure on R&D in Northern Ireland has averaged 0.69% of Gross Value Added (GVA) compared to 1.23% for the UK. In 2009, just ten Northern Ireland companies accounted for 57% of the Northern Ireland R&D expenditure.
NIABT Members heard how the Northern Ireland Assembly is trying to increase our levels of innovation and R&D by advocating greater use of existing opportunities and improving structures, which can then provide increased levels of support for innovation.
Further information on the ETI Committee Report “Developing the Northern Ireland Economy through Innovation, Research and Development” can be found on the Northern Ireland Assembly website.
Following on from the success of last year’s programme, NIABT members were back in Westminster again this year where they took part in a packed programme of briefings and events.
Business got off to an early start on the first morning of the two day visit with a legislative and committee overview from Alasdair Mackenzie, Westminster’s parliamentary Outreach Officer. Alastair was later joined by Laurence Robertson MP, Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, who provided an overview of some of the Committee’s recent inquiries including the air transport strategy in Northern Ireland.
Next stop was the Stranger’s Gallery where members got the opportunity to observe Northern Ireland Questions and Prime Minister’s Question Time. Mike Penning MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, joined the group later in the afternoon to talk about his experience as an MP and what his new role as Minister of State for Northern Ireland entails.
The busy pace of the first day continued with a group of members observing an evidence session of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. The highlight of this meeting was the NIABT Vice Chair John Rooney and NIABT member Glyn Roberts providing their analysis on current Northern Ireland air transport arrangements and how this could be improved to aid the local economy.
NIABT members were later joined by Vernon Coaker MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, for a lively and informative debate on the Northern Ireland economy.
Day one drew to a close with members attending a working dinner with local MPs Ian Paisley, Jim Shannon, the Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson, Dr Alasdair McDonnell MLA, Margaret Ritchie, Mark Durkan and David Simpson. Issues discussed at the dinner included Corporation Tax and Airport Duty.
As the second day of the visit began, there was an early start for members as they attended a breakfast meeting, hosted by the Irish Ambassador Bobby McDonagh at the Irish Embassy. During this breakfast, the discussions included continued close economic relationships between Ireland and the United Kingdom and the upcoming Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Invest NI was the next topic at Westminster where Karena Vaughan, Director of Invest NI delivered an overview of the organisation’s work and role in the UK. The focus of questions was on how the small business sector could be developed and supported. A fascinating discussion also took place on the growth of the space technology and research industry in the UK and opportunities for local businesses and graduates.
The final part of the visit included a working lunch in the House of Lords hosted by Lord Ballyedmond, members were joined by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass. Lord Ballyedmond took members on a tour of the House of Lord and provided a fascinating and informative overview of the rich history and the traditions that exist there.
The importance and potential growth of the small business sector in Northern Ireland was top of the agenda at a recent NIABT breakfast briefing.
Scott Daugherty, the Commissioner for Small Business in North Carolina, was on hand to share his experiences on how the small business sector in North Carolina has had a very positive effect on the local economy as a whole.
Appointed by the State Governor, Scott is the first, and indeed only, state Commissioner for Small Business in the United States, serving as primary policy and programme advisor on all issues affecting small businesses.
As well as advising on policy, the Commissioner also supervises the Department of Commerce Business LINK North Carolina unit which provides free consultations, information and referrals to small existing and start up enterprises throughout the state.
The Commission told NIABT members that there were a lot of similarities between the North Carolina experience and the local business environment. Both, he said, have a high percentage of SMEs and are similarly reliant on the contribution made by this particular sector.
This well attended event stimulated a lot of interest and questions from NIABT members who were all interested to learn how and if the North Carolina experience could benefit small business planning, development and support in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust works to provide a forum for local businesses and their political representatives to gain a better insight into issues of mutual concern.
Members take part in seminars, educational events and visits to other legislatures in Europe, the UK and Ireland. There are many opportunities for business members to talk to MLAs about how the Assembly works and how their business can get involved.
If you would like to find out more about our work, on how your business can join and the benefits of membership – why not take a quick look at our new video for a quick flavour of all that the NIABT can offer you and your business.