The Programme of Investment
A strong, complementary employability and skills package is required to ensure that the right skills are available within the Region to support the economic growth created by the capital programme set out across the Investment Pillars of the Deal. The Belfast Region partners have therefore completed a regional skills barometer and developed a Belfast Region Employability and Skills Proposition to integrate the efforts of partners to provide a transformative employability and skills programme for the Region that delivers Skills for Growth and Skills for Inclusion.
The key to the success of the employability and skills approach for the Belfast Region will be the development of a more integrated approach to prioritising and planning interventions across the region. The approach will need to take account of the nature and responsibilities of central and local government and statutory bodies in Northern Ireland. The establishment of an Employability and Skills Partnership for the Belfast Region, led by the local councils and including representation from government, business, colleges and social partners is considered to be crucial to the success of the Belfast Region City Deal in terms of the implementation of agreed programmes and projects.
The BRCD partners propose to invest £30 million in a series of employability and skills projects under three main themes:
Measures proposed under the Education theme include:
Career Enhancement Programme
The BRCD project for the Careers Enhancement Programme will be focused on delivering better informed choices for young people through the education system, with greater involvement from local and national employers.
In order to meet the ambitions of BRCD, there is a need to revisit and redouble our efforts to develop more innovative approaches to nurture the STEM agenda. A more integrated approach will be developed across the various stakeholders involved in promoting STEM careers to develop action plans and school engagement strategies that are based on directly involving employers in offering animation and engagement opportunities to create individual role models and case studies across the broad STEM agenda.
There are immediate job opportunities in the tourism and hospitality sector in Northern Ireland and the BRCD investments will undoubtedly increase demands for more skilled staff. Finding appropriately skilled people in the labour market will be a major challenge. The BRCD project will involve reshaping the image and understanding of career opportunities in this sector, working closely with employment service and job centres to connect with interested jobseekers.
Programmes proposed under the Skills theme include:
City Deal Apprenticeship Programme
Innovative City Deal pilots would be developed in areas which already apply in other parts of the UK such as Public Sector Apprenticeships, Shared SME Apprenticeships and Adult Apprenticeships. This City Deal Apprenticeship Programme would provide a framework to pilot new approaches in priority areas, There will be a particular focus on employer-defined skills in the Digital, Manufacturing, Health, Construction and Tourism sectors.
Business Productivity Programme
Working in collaboration with Invest NI and other stakeholders supporting business development, innovation and process improvement, to develop a suite of solutions which can support improvements in productivity.
Digital Skills Programme
Working in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Digital ICT working group and Department for the Economy to create a pipeline of talent to address the shortage of digital skills. It will fund a comprehensive Digital Skills Programme which will offer entry and upskilling opportunities to learners and employees across the Belfast Region. The programme will be designed to offer different levels of access to digital skills.
Measures proposed under the Employability theme include:
Graduate Development Programme
This programme will be focused on recent graduates and post-graduates in NI and will seek to extend the Assured Skills Academy Programme and to further enhance the approach by developing a 24 week Graduate Management Development Programme across the region. This would offer opportunities for specialist management roles in the priority growth sectors.
Employment for All
Building on the Bridge to Employment Academies, the BRCD proposition is for a more focused and joined up approach to collating information on employer demands and working to co-design training solutions.
One of the keys to success in the Employability for All Programme will be to shape interventions for the range of economically inactive groups, such as women returners, parents with caring responsibilities, individuals with sickness, disability and mental health issues, and young people not in education, employment or training.