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Industry leaders gather for skills discussion

Skills policy briefing session 'Opening Opportunities - discussing the direction of skills in Northern Ireland' hosted in partnership by The Open University and The IoD. Pictured L-R is Jackie Henry, Deloitte; Dr. Lynsey Quinn, The Open University; Kirsty McManus, IoDNI; Mary Meehan, Manufacturing NI and Maire-Therese McGivern, NED.

Kirsty McManus, National Director at the Institute of Directors Northern Ireland (IoDNI) has called for greater collaboration between further and higher education institutions and the business community here in order to achieve the region’s economic goals.

The remarks from the local business leader were made at a roundtable event hosted by the IoDNI and The Open University (the OU).

A number of key figures from the trade and business community took part in the discussion which was held in collaboration with the OU in the city centre’s Merchant Hotel. Jackie Henry, Partner at Deloitte; Mary Meehan, Deputy Chief at Manufacturing NI; Marie-Thérèse McGivern, Non-Executive Director; Carol Fitzsimmons, CEO, Young Enterprise NI and Dr. Lynsey Quinn of the OU, were all involved in the debate which looked at the direction of skills in Northern Ireland as well as how to open opportunities within this area.

Each of the contributors were asked what could be done to address Northern Ireland’s historic skills shortages and while it was clear no one intervention would remedy the situation overnight, Kirsty McManus suggested that “strategic and expertly planned collaboration would help maximise the true potential of the local economy and a childcare strategy would open up greater opportunities.”

Answering the same question Dr. Lynsey Quinn, Senior Skills and Partnerships Manager with the OU in Ireland put forward the case for a greater focus on employability.

The future workforce is reliant on emerging talent having a robust sense of self-leadership; critical thinking and decision-making abilities and strong interpersonal skills in order to meet the demands and opportunities of an ever-evolving digital world. We need to see greater emphasis on lifelong learning and encouraging the workforce to not lose an appetite to learn but to want to develop their skills at all stages of their careers and ensure the structures are in place in workplaces to allow the workforce to do so.

Dr Lynsey Quinn
Senior Skills and Partnerships Manager, The Open University

“Each of today’s contributors has brought new and exciting ideas to the table and it is encouraging to hear that these business leaders want to work in closer partnership with education providers, such as the OU, to meet their upskilling and reskilling needs and maintaining a culture of learning and development within their respective organisations.”

Rounding off the discussion, Kirsty McManus reaffirmed the IoD’s position that it would continue to act as an intermediary between the business community and further and higher education outlets to tackle employers’ concerns around skills and protect work done to date through the existing Skills Strategy.

Change best comes about through dialogue and partnership, so this event has been a welcome first step for these organisations to come together and focus on the skills they need to fulfill their growth ambitions.

It is positive that all partners have agreed to continue this discussion and we hope that by bringing this group of business leaders together we have created a forum which, in the absence of a functioning executive, will continue to put pressure on decision makers not to renege on commitments already made in the existing Northern Ireland Skills Strategy and resource and endorse this even further.

Kirsty McManus
National Director, the Institute of Directors Northern Ireland

“Thanks must go to all of our contributors for taking the time to engage with this event and for sharing their ideas so enthusiastically.”

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