Committee threatens to open up skills provision to private sector but silent on need for increased funding for Further & Higher Education
September 7th: Following publication of the DETI Committee’s report on Growing the Economy, Unite’s Secretary for Ireland, Jimmy Kelly, welcomed its recommendation that the NI Executive to take the long overdue step of adopting a strategy for economic development:
“Unite has led calls for the Northern Ireland Executive to adopt a long-term approach to growing the economy in partnership with civil society. We welcome the fact that this committee has recognised the absence of such an economic plan in Northern Ireland – something we have identified repeatedly as a major concern.”
Mr Kelly identified a range of areas of concern and shortfalls to the report’s recommendations:
“Unfortunately, the terms of reference of this committee was tied to the cutting of corporation tax rates. The reality is that this is a pursuit of tax haven status in a global race-to-the-bottom to entice transient investment; a policy which will necessitate even deeper cuts to funding for skills and training provision as well as essential infrastructural investment and public transport – all of which are vital to our long-term economic growth.
“This report offers nothing but the promise of more reviews for manufacturers who face some of the highest costs for energy in Europe and who struggle to obtain connections for onsite renewable energy generational capacity.
“While the report rightfully identifies the skills gap existing in Northern Ireland, it appears to be blind to what’s actually happening in Northern Ireland. While it places great emphasis on supporting skills for the new economy and STEM subjects in particular, only last week NI Executive cuts have forced the closure of Modern Languages and STEM provision in the University of Ulster. Furthermore, the recommendation of considering opportunities for private sector participation in Higher Education is particularly alarming in the context of reduced funding for universities.
“The failure to agree the need for sub-regional job creation targets weakens the potential impact of any economic development strategy to address the challenges facing different parts of Northern Ireland. Is it too much to ask that the Assembly sets itself the target of a long-term job creation strategy which focusses on the goal of delivering a full-employment economy?
“A long-term economic strategy focussed on our manufacturing sector must face up to the challenges of delivering public investment in our infrastructure and public transport services, addressing the problems associated with the NI energy market and ensuring adequate funding for skills and educational provision. Such a strategy is necessary to eliminate the problem of youth unemployment and the stem the exodus of young people to find educational and employment opportunities overseas”, Mr Kelly concluded.