Fri 24th Feb 2017
Alliance Leader outlines plans for jobs and the economy
Alliance Party Leader Naomi Long pictured with NI Chamber Chief Executive Ann McGregor, Boomer Industries Managing Director Andrew Robinson and NI Chamber President Nick Coburn. The Alliance Party Leader was speaking at the latest event of the ‘5 Leaders, 5 Days’ series – a programme of events organised by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) at which the party leader from five main political parties will outline their plans for jobs, growth and the economy. Today’s event took at place at Boomer Industries in Lisburn.
Alliance leader Naomi Long today (Friday 24 February 2017) outlined her plans for jobs and the economy to leading members of the Northern Ireland business community ahead of the forthcoming election.
The Alliance Party leader was speaking at the latest event of the ‘5 Leaders; 5 Days’ series, a programme of events organised by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) at which the party leader from five main political parties outline their plans for jobs, growth and the economy.
Today’s event followed previous addresses by DUP leader Arlene Foster; Ulster Unionist Leader Mike Nesbitt and Sinn Fein Leader Michelle O’Neill.
Speaking at this morning’s event, her first keynote address to businesses since becoming Party Leader, Ms Long said:
“Our aim is to make Northern Ireland the most innovative and dynamic regional economy in Europe. To do this, we can no longer rely on what made us prosperous in the past. We must invest in the skills, research and infrastructure as the key drivers of economic change.
“There is an ever-pressing need to address the structural problems in our economic, ranging from the insufficient employment rate and the comparatively low levels of productivity. There is a challenge to ensure government makes sufficient investment of resources in the right areas, and in particular skills to ensure the programmes established over recent years by the Department for Employment and Learning can deliver fully.
“But we will not be able to fulfil our full economic and social potential in Northern Ireland unless we can create political stability and in the face of Brexit, achieve a special status for this region that maximises our economic opportunities.”
Speaking after today’s event, Nick Coburn, President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said:
“Our members consistently highlight the issue of skills – or the lack of them – as an area which needs to be addressed if the Northern Ireland economy is to grow.
“A recent NI Chamber survey revealed that almost two-thirds of businesses are experiencing recruitment difficulties across the manufacturing and services sectors. In addition more than half of firms believe there to be a mismatch of skills to the workforce requirements which is curtailing economic growth and recovery.
“Worryingly, the skills issue is likely to become even more critical as a result of Brexit. The skills of existing EU workers are crucial to the success of businesses, and must be retained. This makes sense both for EU employees and their UK employers.
“With major skills shortages in industries such as construction, engineering and IT, EU workers provide the UK economy with vital skills which are simply in short supply among the indigenous workforce.
“Then, there are the skills that high quality businesses who invest in Northern Ireland expect to find. They want qualified graduates who can slot into a high-end demanding role and we need to ensure that we can match the personnel needs of such companies with our labour supply.
“This is, therefore, not the time to be cutting back on investment in further and higher education. In fact, the opposite is the case. We must ensure that investment in skills is prioritised and that the funding model for universities is reviewed.”
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood concludes the series on Monday 27 February at Belfast’s Mount Charles Group.