While the Treasury is making seventy six million (GBP) available to the executive in the first year, rising to eighty two million (GBP) it is also applying a negative consequential of fifty two million (GBP). While this was arguably a foreseeable impact on funding the response of the NI Executive and especially that of the Finance Minister is disappointing.
The return of twenty four million (GBP) should be ring fenced and applied to skills development across Northern Ireland. It can benefit everyone in the community if used in the public, private and third sectors to actively develop skills and embed the Apprenticeship and Youth Training Strategies being implemented by the Department for the Economy.
The deficit in skills if not addressed will negate any benefit the NI Executive hopes to achieve through reduction in Corporation Tax. 16.3 percent of the our working population have no qualifications, we have a 20 percent lower uptake in apprenticeships than the rest of the UK and 35 percent of those sitting GCSE examinations are failing to achieve A* to C qualifications in Maths and English.
It is welcome to again hear the Economy Minister commit to engaging the business community and his commitment to skills development. It is unfortunate that the Finance Ministers statement make any consultation of little relevance as the business community has been sent a very negative message through the joint statement.
The NI Executive must clearly state the vision it has for skills development in Northern Ireland. Taking a detailed look at the landscape, as Scotland has done through the Wood Commission and Fair Work Convention, would be a positive indication on the direction of travel.
The draft Programme for Government has indicated the NI Executive wants to “improve the skills of the population” and “increase the proportion of people working in good jobs.” If that is the case the joint statement released yesterday is an inauspicious beginning.