Northern Ireland: £200m worth of initiatives announced

A range of measures designed to create and sustain employment opportunities in the local jobs market has been launched by the Northern Ireland Executive. 

Enterprise minister Arlene Foster announced the £200 million worth of initiatives, saying that while focus remained on rebalancing the economy in the long term, more needed to be done to boost the labour market for the short-term.

It includes measures aimed at SMEs to invest in employee skills, access finance, and to seek investment more readily, while the unemployed, young people and disadvantaged groups will also get support.

It comes on top of £26 million in additional funding recently announced as part of Northern Ireland's Social Change projects.

Responding to the announcement, deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, said: "The Executive is responding flexibly to the needs of those hit hardest by the recession and taking action to ensure those out of work have access to the right training, skills and education opportunities. These employment measures are particularly focused on the needs of young people to help them get into work."

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Northern Ireland chairman, Ian Coulter, welcomed the initiatives, particularly the injection of over £100 million targeted at the construction sector in 2012 and 2013 to support both companies and employment. 

"Addressing youth unemployment has been a key priority for CBI members and we welcome the announcement of additional apprenticeship opportunities and STEM graduate and PhD places. Northern Ireland does have a number of successful companies who have a demand for skills in this area," he said.

Other key initiatives include:

  • An extension of the small business rate relief scheme, providing 3,500 businesses with a 20 per cent discount on rates
  • A growth skills scheme for SMEs providing a 50 per cent grant towards employee training costs
  • £5.7 million towards the completion of major tourism projects. These capital projects could support over 450 construction jobs, the NI Tourist Board have estimated
  • 1,700 waged employment opportunities for young people for a minimum of six months
  • 500 undergraduate places in sectors such as science, technology and engineering

The CBI added: "Overall, the speed at which these initiatives were turned around following one meeting is encouraging. CBI would encourage these meetings becoming a regular occurrence, with monthly reviews tabled by the Executive."